Saturday, March 18, 2000

Johnson becomes shot-blocker


The Cincinnati Enquirer

DerMarr Johnson had four blocks and 13 points.
(AP photo)
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        NASHVILLE, Tenn. — DerMarr Johnson blocked a career-high four shots Friday in the Bearcats' 64-47 victory over UNC Wilmington in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

        Maybe there just weren't enough shots available to block when Kenyon Martin was healthy.

        “I knew I had to go out and take some shots,” Johnson said. “They weren't falling, so I had to do other things.”

        In addition to his blocks, Johnson grabbed seven rebounds, six at the defensive end. He scored 13 points but shot just 1-of-8 from 3-point range.

        “He said he was trying to rebound and block shots because he couldn't make a shot,” coach Bob Huggins said. “I wish he'd do both.”

Donald Little had seven rebounds in 11 minutes.
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        Johnson's most remarkable block came with 3:08 left in the first half. UNCW's Brett Blizzard picked up a steal and thought he was clear for a layup, but Johnson sneaked up from behind and took that score away.

        What was more amazing than the fact Johnson blocked the shot, though, was that he executed the block so that a Seahawks player trailing the play would not be able to grab the ball and score.

        Johnson acknowledged Martin afterward.

        “That was for him,” Johnson said. “Those are things he brings to the team, and we've got to make up some of that.”

Foul calls
        It has not been easy to get yourself fouled in this tournament, which made Pete Mickeal's double-figure effort in free throws attempted all the more impressive.

        In the first 20 games of this tournament, only five players managed to attempt 10 or more free throws. Mickeal, who scored 15 points, was 6-of-10 at the line.

Ryan Fletcher grapples for loose ball.
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On the alert
        The evidence of how capable a coach UC defeated Friday was there for everyone to see in the first half, when B.J. Grove entered the game for the Bearcats.

        Grove is a skilled low-post scorer but still is learning the game, so UC rarely sends him in without the intention of immediately getting him the ball on the blocks. Huggins ran a high-low play for Grove on which Mickeal entered the ball into the post. UNCW's Jerry Wainwright obviously had Grove well-scouted.

        His players immediately double-teamed Grove and forced him to give up the ball. Grove finished 0-for-3.

Shirt stuff
        UC's players wore T-shirts that were printed for them that simply said, “Go Cats” on the front but on the back contained a message honoring Martin, who wore No.4 as a Bearcat:

        “This Tourney's 4 You!”

        Not everyone noticed what the shirts were about.

        “Oh yeah? I didn't even look at that,” Johnson said. “I like that.”

By the numbers
        • In Huggins' nine NCAA appearances, the Bearcats were eliminated in the first round just once, by Wisconsin in 1994. His NCAA Tournament record as coach is 15-9.

        • The .288 field goal percentage by UNCW was the second-poorest of the season against UC, bettering only the .286 shot by UNC Charlotte in the Bearcats' Feb.3 victory.

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