Sunday, January 14, 2001

New plan plays to UC's strength




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        LOUISVILLE In the wee, small hours of Thursday morning, defeated and distressed, sleepless and searching, Bob Huggins settled on a new strategic initiative.

        He decided to play to the backcourt strength of his Cincinnati Bearcats and, in the process, conserve more of it for the closing minutes. He resolved to make better use of Steve Logan to keep Kenny Satterfield fresh at the finish.

        “We sat up and watched the (Marquette) tape for about five hours,” UC assistant coach Mick Cronin recalled Saturday. “We saw that teams were picking Kenny up (defensively) for 94 feet. We talked about getting the ball into Steve's hands more. The whole idea was that we have two point guards. Why not use them?”

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Kenny Satterfield
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
        Accustomed to being an established power, the Bearcats are a work in progress this season. They are still too uncertain up front to make a meaningful run in March, and there may not be sufficient time to solve that perplexing problem.

        Still, Huggins' latest tweak already has produced some tangible progress. Saturday's 72-52 stampede of Louisville was UC's most emphatic road victory of the season and suggested that Wednesday's meltdown at Marquette ultimately may be remembered for the coaches' postgame epiphany.

        Logan scored 27 points Saturday afternoon at Freedom Hall; Satterfield had 15. Logan's production represented his season high, as did the combined points of the two guards.

        The plan that was spawned in the middle of a Milwaukee night was to redistribute the Bearcats' ball-handling responsibilities while keeping both Satterfield and Logan on the floor as much as possible. Instead of maintaining fairly rigid positions — Satterfield the point guard, Logan the shooting guard — the Bearcats would reverse the roles periodically to get more mileage from both players.

        Logan, a point guard by training, would be able to devise more shots off the dribble. Satterfield, a high school shooting guard, would be allowed the luxury of loping up the court without dribbling so much under duress.

        “Lo's been a point guard since he was 4 years old,” Huggins said. “We've taken him off the ball. ... (Now) we want Lo to have the ball as much as Satt has the ball.”

        Huggins had been reluctant to make this change because of the inexperience and potential confusion of his inside players. But as opponents have intensified their efforts to grind Satterfield, the sophomore's fatigue has become a factor. Satterfield has made only eight of 27 second-half field goal attempts in the Bearcats' four losses and has missed critical shots in the closing seconds of three of them.

        “It doesn't matter who's bringing (the ball) up,” Logan said. “Kenny and I have played together before, and we get on each other to get better. I've never played with a guy before who wants to win as bad as me. Kenny's confidence level is probably 100 percent, and mine is 101. We need to get the other guys on the same confidence level.”

        Nothing builds confidence like a new wrinkle that works. Louisville may be lousy — and with four straight losses at Freedom Hall, Denny Crum soon may be history — but Huggins' rebalanced backcourt deserves credit for immediate results.

        “A lot of people are going to doubt us because of the players we lost,” Satterfield said. “But if we start playing like we did today, we're going to win this league again.”

        That's still a pretty big if. Its size, however, is shrinking.

        E-mail: tsullivan@enquirer.com.
       

       



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