Monday, January 28, 2002

UC's McElroy gets defensive


Senior takes challenges personally

By Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Immanuel McElroy
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        With 5:08 remaining in Saturday's game, South Florida's Altron Jackson hit a 3-pointer that cut the University of Cincinnati's lead to 57-50. Bearcats senior Immanuel McElroy took that personally. He had been defending Jackson all day.

        “He's out there yelling, "Altron gets no more 3s, no more shots,' ” UC teammate Steve Logan said. “That was unbelievable to hear. You've got to love him for that.”

        McElroy's reputation grows with each passing UC victory. He is the Bearcat assigned to guard the opponent's best player, as long as that person is not a center or power forward.

        No.4 UC's 78-68 victory Saturday was its 19th straight, and defense has been the team's calling card.

        No individual represents that better than McElroy, who could care less whether he scores as long as UC wins.

        Players, coaches, opponents all say the same things: He's athletic, strong, tough, physical and plays hard. The word many use that might best define his play is selfless.

        “He takes pride in defending,” South Florida coach Seth Greenberg said. “He's a guy who just totally accepts his role.”

        Jackson, the Bulls' senior star who is five points shy of becoming Conference USA's all-time leading scorer, was held to 11 points Saturday on 4-of-10 shooting.

        Seven of his points came in the final 5:44.

        McElroy has done a good job on Saint Louis' Jason Edwin (4-of-14 shooting, 15 points), Louisville's Reece Gaines (5-of-16, 19 points — seven came in the last seven minutes) and Charlotte's Jobey Thomas (5-of-15, 13 points) to help the Bearcats.

        “I don't know if we've had anybody like Mac,” UC coach Bob Huggins said. “Allen Jackson was really good.

        “Mac's got great energy and he's a great athlete. And he's got a great basketball mentality; you tell him how to guard and he does it. Lenny (Stokes) has been good, too. I've got two wing guys who really guard.”

        In the offseason, McElroy focused on his offense, working hard to improve his jump shot and looking to score more than he did last season (7.0 ppg).

        He is averaging 8.7 points. His 5.5 rebounds a game are an increase over last season (3.3), as are his 2.7 assists (compared to 1.7 a year ago).

        But even games when he connects on just 2 of 10 field goal attempts, like Saturday, it's hardly noticeable because of his defensive effort.

        “I can score, but I love defense,” McElroy said. “I watch tape over and over to see what a player can do. Some of the best players are their go-to guys. When you take them out, the team's emotion goes down. When I do that, I help my team win.”

        B.J. UPDATE: Junior center B.J. Grove did not resume practicing with the Bearcats Sunday night. He was instead working on his conditioning. Grove was sent home from Tampa, Fla., for weight-related reasons and did not attend Saturday's game at South Florida.

&         Sunday story: UC 78, South Florida 68



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