Wednesday, January 30, 2002

SULLIVAN: 'Cats just too good

UC victory pleasantly boring

By Tim Sullivan
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        East Carolina left its locker room with its best guards in black. Brandon Hawkins and Travis Holcomb-Faye were under suspension for unspecified infractions, and their punishment precluded suiting up for Tuesday night's game against the University of Cincinnati.

        So Hawkins and Holcomb-Faye donned their formal jogging suits instead of the more garish purple and gold their teammates wore. They then took adjoining seats at the end of the Pirates bench and witnessed yet another marvelous Bearcat mismatch.

        Whatever doubt existed about UC's ability to extend its winning streak to 20 games evaporated when East Carolina coach Bill Herrion relegated his regular backcourt to the bench.

        Without Hawkins and Holcomb-Faye, the Pirates were destined to walk the plank. They were fortunate when they were able to walk the ball across midcourt. They were bludgeoned Tuesday, 75-48, and it would have been worse had Bob Huggins not seized the opportunity to season his substitutes.

        With the starters still in, and the defensive pressure unrelenting, Huggins' Bearcats gave East Carolina an acute case of claustrophobia. In one early stretch of seven possessions, the Pirates committed six turnovers and attempted only one shot. They bore the panicked expressions of an apprentice skier on an advanced slope.

        “We knew coming in here tonight how difficult this basketball game was going to be,” Herrion said.

Over before it began
Leonard Stokes pulls off a "rabbit shot" against East Carolina.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
               Knowledge, it turns out, is not always power. Before the game was four minutes old, Herrion had called two timeouts. Before the Pirates made their second shot, they were trailing 17-2. Before the game was over, East Carolina's Devin Boddie had committed six turnovers. The freshman point guard was starting his first college game under circumstances so unfavorable that his coach apologized for the predicament before the game was played.

        “I really wanted to play 'em (at full strength) because of how they treated us up there,” UC guard Steve Logan said. “It's bad luck they didn't get to come here and see what the Bearcats are all about.”

        These Bearcats are all about efficiency, so much so that they are beginning to make basketball boring. They have been so dominant this season that their second halves lately have held all the suspense of a Roadrunner cartoon.

        Attendance, consequently, is down at Shoemaker Center, but so is congestion. The Bearcats are Team Traffic Flow. Those spectators who were still around at the final buzzer Tuesday must have had either an unquenchable bloodlust or nowhere else to go.

No worthy foe
               Asked if his team was being adequately tested, Huggins claimed to be content, citing his 1992 Final Four team as an example of the confidence to be gained from regular blowouts. Yet one of the reasons Huggins has welcomed the arrival of Rick Pitino at Louisville and John Calipari at Memphis has been UC's need of rivals worthy of a rivalry.

        Even at full strength, East Carolina hardly qualifies on that score. It is foremost a football school, one year removed from the Colonial Athletic Association.

        “We were a very marginal team in the CAA,” Herrion said, “so this jump we're trying, it takes time.”

        May we all live so long.

        Contact Tim Sullivan at 768-8456; fax: 768-8550; e-mail:


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