Friday, March 09, 2001

Bearcats don't let guard down




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        LOUISVILLE — Steve Logan is the Player of the Year. Kenny Satterfield is the Man of the Hour.

        University of Cincinnati basketball coach Bob Huggins is blessed with a backcourt that can cover a multitude of sins. The Bearcats rebound as if their feet were stuck to the floor. Their inside game is often too timid. But out on the perimeter, where Logan and Satterfield operate, the Bearcats have the sure hands of surgeons.

        Whatever noise UC makes this month will be based largely on the guidance of its guards.

        The top-seeded Bearcats advanced to the semifinals of the Conference USA Tournament Thursday night with the same basic formula that has sustained them all season. Slightly outshot, embarrassingly outrebounded, they nonetheless outlasted Alabama-Birmingham 73-70 because they handled the ball as if it were a family heirloom. That and because, in the end, Satterfield put the ball in the basket.

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Kenny Satterfield
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
        This is not a typical Huggins team. UC's trademark in seasons past has been rugged inside play and relentless defense. Yet unable to depend on the deep pass to a powerful interior presence like Kenyon Martin or Danny Fortson, Huggins has adapted with a ball-control attack worthy of Bill Parcells. If only he could eliminate the shot clock and revive Dean Smith's four-corners offense, the Bearcats might have a serious shot at the Final Four.

        As it stands, the Bearcats are a little undermanned for March Madness. Still, they aren't likely to beat themselves. Logan had a lousy shooting night Thursday (4-for-15), but he and Satterfield totaled 68 minutes and were charged with only one turnover against 10 assists. Compared to these guys, the Good Hands People are a bunch of butterfingers.

        The Bearcats made 150 fewer turnovers than their opponents during the regular season, which roughly translates as an extra five possessions per game. Thursday, they turned over the ball only five times against UAB's 15. While this is not the first statistic fans usually check in the box score, it is UC's main means of survival.

        “It's tough when we can't throw it close and score,” Huggins said. “We get fouled and we can't make free throws. . .We've had to compensate for not being able to get a rebound by taking care of (the ball).”

        UAB did not miss a single shot during the first 10 minutes of Thursday's game. But because the Blazers handled the ball sloppily, a lot of their possessions ended prematurely. UC, meanwhile, would not make its first turnover until the game was 12 minutes old.

        Sometimes, these matters get glossed over in a game that finishes as frenetically as this one. Leading by eight points with less than 12 minutes to play, the Bearcats were outscored 16-3 and found themselves trailing by five at the six-minute mark.

Satterfield steps up

        It was shortly thereafter that Satterfield assumed command. His 3-pointer tied the game at 67-67 with 3:09 remaining. His driving layup gave the Bearcats the lead at 1:58. And his dazzling spin-move basket put the Bearcats ahead to stay 43 seconds from the finish.

        “We just had to keep playing,” Satterfield explained, “because the game was close.”

        It stayed close because the Bearcats stayed careful.

        E-mail tsullivan@enquirer.com. Past columns at Enquirer.com/columns/sullivan.

       



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