Saturday, March 18, 2000

UC 64, UNC-Wilmington 47


Strong defense sustains Bearcats in first NCAA test

BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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UC overwhelmed UNC-Wilmington with stifling defense.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
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        NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Without Kenyon Martin in the starting lineup, the Cincinnati Bearcats have become a perfect team: 1-0.

        They are among the 32 teams in the 2000 NCAA men's basketball tournament that remain unbeaten after the first round, which is the idea at this time of the season.

        In a 64-47 victory Friday over UNC Wilmington at the Gaylord Entertainment Center, the Bearcats (29-3) shot the ball miserably and rebounded adequately, but they defended brilliantly and survived their first game playing without college basketball's likely player of the year. Martin broke his leg eight days earlier, three minutes into a loss to Saint Louis.

        “I think it's still the same team,” said senior Jermaine Tate, who moved over to center in Martin's absence and finished with eight points, seven rebounds and a career-high four blocks. “Kenyon's a great player, but we have to adjust to a lot of things. We've got to make up blocked shots, rebounds and just defend and stop guys from coming to the basket.”

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Pete Mickeal did the job on both ends of the court.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
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        All of these tasks should be more difficult against Tulsa (30-4), UC's opponent in the second round Sunday.

        UNCW (18-13) was physically overmatched and shot 17-of-59 from the field, with UC forward Pete Mickeal holding Seahawks star Brett Blizzard to eight shots and five points. The Bearcats were led by Mickeal's 15 points and also got 13 from DerMarr Johnson, 12 points and eight assists from point guard Kenny Satterfield and 10 on 5-of-7 shooting from forward Ryan Fletcher.

        “They didn't let us come back. That's a tribute to their players and coaches,” UNCW coach Jerry Wainwright said. “As they go along, they'll get better, because it will be another game they play without Kenyon.”

        At the start, there seemed to be little difference in the way the Bearcats executed their attack, except there was no Martin to pass to. In other words, nothing much happened.

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Jermaine Tate had four of UC's nine blocks.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
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        They scored on their first two trips by driving the ball to the goal, but the emphasis on perimeter screens that had been promised did not develop as UC went through four consecutive empty trips and fell behind 7-3.

        The Bearcats did try to use their athletic advantage to create a running game, which is not easy against a team that ranks among the nation's leaders in scoring defense. Pushing the ball on the break led to a 3-pointer from Mickeal that took back the lead for good.

        “We kind of started out slow,” Fletcher said, “but once we got the lead, we continued to build on it, and our confidence kept growing and growing.”

        What UC was able to do often and effectively was spread the court to isolate Satterfield, Mickeal or Steve Logan and have that player penetrate the lane. But the Bearcats couldn't manage to hit whatever shots developed.

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Kenyon Martin whips up UC fans.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
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        UNCW went nearly seven minutes without a score, from 16:43 to 9:53 of the first half, but fell behind by only five points. The Bearcats missed 12 of their first 16 shots, with Johnson just 1-of-5. As ominous as it was that they missed every 3-pointer they tried, it was a greater problem that they failed to finish several drives and that three early free throws missed the mark.

        “When Logan missed that free throw ... he never misses a free throw, and that wasn't even close,” coach Bob Huggins said. “Guys were trying to do the right things. We were a little anxious, probably.”

        What saved UC from disaster was its defense, which was nearly flawless where it needed to be: along the perimeter.

        Mickeal blinded Blizzard with his long arms and determination. Averaging nearly a dozen shots entering the game, Blizzard tried only four in the first half and made one. He got off a shot when UNCW won the opening tip, then was silent until he scored his first basket with 6:59 left in the half.

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Fans show they hadn't given up on the Bearcats.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
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        “I thought it would be difficult for Brett to get double figures,” Wainwright said. “They did a remarkable job in making Brett pass the basketball. Their defense on Brett gave guys who are not used to geting shots some looks. I think we rushed our shots.”

        UC closed the first half on an 8-1 run that gave the Bearcats a 26-14 advantage at the break and the sort of comfort they needed to begin to play with confidence.

        The Seahawks did not score a field goal for the final 5:50, which covered 10 possessions. Two of those trips were snuffed out by blocked shots and two by steals. UC scored its final basket by dribbling away 21 of the last 23 seconds, then ordering Satterfield to penetrate the lane and see what developed. Fletcher's man tried to stop Satterfield, and he snapped a pass inside that Fletcher turned into a dunk.

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Bob Huggins works the ref.
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        “We're not the same kind of team,” Huggins said. “We're not the same team offensively. We didn't have to do much before but figure out a way to throw it into Kenyon, because he made such good decisions. We're more of a motion team now, and we have to create with penetration.”

        Fletcher's late basket spurred him to a strong second-half start. He scored four of UC's first six points, as the lead was stretched toward dominance. The Seahawks had one chance to make a charge, trailing by 16 when Logan turned over the ball near the with 10:56 left.

        Had Ramond Perine's 3-point shot connected, there might have been a threat. It did not. UC answered with baskets by Johnson and freshman Leonard Stokes and got it back to a 20-point game.

        “We've been comfortable all week in practice,” Johnson said, “but this was our first test.”

Mickeal key as Bearcats seek renewal
Game worsens Martin's pain
Mickeal's defense wakes up Bearcats
Johnson becomes shot-blocker
West Ender Shelton will lead Tulsa vs. UC
Tulsa impressive in romp over UNLV
Tournament game coverage at Cincinnati.com/madness
Join the discussion in our College Sports forum


NC WILMINGTON (47)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Perine          35  2-11   0-0   2-7  3  3    4
Green           23   2-3   0-0   2-5  0  4    4
Ebong           29  5-11   2-6   2-7  0  3   15
Thelmon         16   0-5   0-0   0-3  4  1    0
Blizzard        39   2-8   0-0   0-2  2  1    5
Jarmond          1   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Scott            2   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Dahl            13   0-0   1-2   0-2  0  1    1
Hare            13   3-7   2-2   2-4  0  2    9
Lancaster        1   0-0   0-0   1-2  0  0    0
Callahan         5   0-3   0-0   0-1  0  0    0
Kojenets        23  3-11   3-4   2-5  0  2    9
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 17-59  8-14 11-38  9 17   47
_______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.288, FT-.571. 3-Point Goals: 5-18, .278 (Perine 0-4, Ebong 3-4, Thelmon 0-2, Blizzard 1-4, Hare 1-3, Callahan 0-1). Team rebounds: 5. Blocked shots: None. Turnovers: 12 (Kojenets 3, Blizzard 2, Ebong 2, Green 2, Callahan, Hare, Thelmon). Steals: 9 (Thelmon 2, Blizzard, Callahan, Ebong, Green, Hare, Kojenets, Perine).

CINCINNATI (64) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Fletcher 29 5-7 0-0 3-5 2 1 10 Mickeal 32 4-10 6-10 0-6 1 1 15 Tate 32 3-8 2-4 3-7 0 1 8 Johnson 31 6-15 0-0 1-7 2 1 13 Satterfield 31 5-9 2-2 1-3 8 2 12 Stokes 5 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 2 Logan 23 1-5 2-3 0-4 0 2 4 Grove 6 0-3 0-0 1-2 0 0 0 Little 11 0-2 0-0 4-7 0 5 0 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 25-60 12-19 13-41 13 14 64 _______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.417, FT-.632. 3-Point Goals: 2-17, .118 (Mickeal 1-4, Johnson 1-8, Satterfield 0-2, Logan 0-3). Team rebounds: 2. Blocked shots: 9 (Tate 4, Johnson 4, Grove). Turnovers: 12 (Johnson 4, Logan 2, Mickeal 2, Satterfield 2, Fletcher, Little). Steals: 5 (Mickeal 2, Satterfield 2, Johnson). __________________________________ Nc Wilmington 14 33 - 47 Cincinnati 26 38 - 64 __________________________________ Technical fouls: None. Officials: Ted Valentine, Jd Collins, Mike Scyphers.



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