Thursday, March 09, 2000

UC wants to run the table


Bearcats unbeaten in conference as tourney begins

BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MEMPHIS — The Cincinnati Bearcats stand precisely where they did one year ago: the No.1 seed in the Conference USA tournament, ready to pursue coach Bob Huggins' seventh league tournament championship.

        It feels different, though. There is no sense of dread about what some team out there might do to the Bearcats. There is an obvious enthusiasm to demonstrate what they are capable of doing to others.

UC vs. SAINT LOUIS
  • When: 1 p.m today
  • Where: The Pyramid, Memphis
  • Records: UC 28-2; Saint Louis 16-13
  • TV: Ch.19
  • Radio: WLW-AM (700)
  BY THE NUMBERS
  • 3-10: Saint Louis' record in games outside the Kiel Center.
  • 14: Difference in points scored by Love against Southern Miss Wednesday and his production against UC last week.
  • 23.5: SLU's average turnovers the past two games.
  • 43: Number of points by which UC defeated SLU on the Bearcats' Senior Day Saturday (84-41).
        “There's really no comparison,” said senior forward Pete Mickeal. “It's a totally different style of play, and the team is so different. We're comfortable out there playing, because you know everybody knows their role. Last year, we needed guys to step up, and sometimes they didn't do that, and we lost. Here, a guy comes out and has a bad game, and we still can win the game.”

        The No.1-ranked Bearcats (28-2) begin this year's C-USA tournament today with a 1 p.m. game at The Pyramid in Memphis against Saint Louis (16-13), the victim of an 84-41 loss to UC in its final regular- season game last Saturday.

        In their last regular-season game in 1999, the Bearcats scored 89 points. But last year's group wasn't an offensive force.

        There were specific types of teams against which the '99 Bearcats could score easily: bad defensive teams, and good ones that played man-to-man aggressively but not physically.

        Those that played zone or stacked their defenses in the lane made games miserable for the Bearcats. All six of UC's defeats, five of which came from Feb.6 to March 14, were the work of teams that chose to defend UC in that manner.

        In those five losses, UC shot 102-of-260 from the field, a .392 percentage. They made 15 of their 72 3-point at tempts.

        “We always had teams sitting back in the post, sitting in everybody's lap,” Huggins said. “They can't do that now.”

        Whereas last year's Bearcats had to be concerned with how teams would try to defend them, this team needs only to be aware.

        Center Kenyon Martin averaged 25.1 points from Feb.1 to the end of the regular season. Shooting guard DerMarr Johnson shot .500 from 3-point range in the same period. Kenny Satterfield, Mickeal and Steve Logan all topped 20 points at least once.

        “Last year, we didn't know where the points were going to come from,” Martin said. “We didn't know how people were going to defend us, and how we were going to react. This year, I think we've done a pretty good job of preparing. We've got so many guys that can score, and it's a lot easier.”

        Mickeal once again is included in that group following his 21-point effort against Saint Louis, which came directly after he served a one-game benching against DePaul.

        In the four games prior to that — the four he played — Mickeal averaged 9.5 points and shot .272 from the floor. Huggins made a point of praising Mickeal for sacrificing his scoring numbers for the sake of the Bearcats' success.

        “That's the common thread that goes through this team,” Huggins said. “We've got a group of seniors who care more about their basketball team than they do themselves, and I think that's carried down through the ranks.”

        Although the Bearcats humbled the Billikens just five days ago, they do not view advancement to the C-USA semifinals as automatic. And they are not taking this tournament for granted, even though they won all 16 regular-season conference games.

        “All these guys have had to sit in the locker room after they lost in the conference tournament or the NCAA Tournament. They know what that's like. I think they have done a great job of letting the freshmen know what it's like, what they have to do to make sure that doesn't happen again.”

       



Bearcats Stories
- UC wants to run the table
Martin, Huggins win top league honors
C-USA Tournament Roundup
C-USA Tournament Pairings

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