Thursday, January 31, 2002

Defensive standoff may unfold

UC, Marquette equally stingy

By Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        They easily have the top two defenses in Conference USA, and the University of Cincinnati ranks No.1 (55.6 ppg) and Marquette No.8 (59.5) nationally in scoring defense.

        So points will be a challenge when the teams meet Saturday in Milwaukee.

        “That shot clock may be run down a couple times,” Saint Louis coach Lorenzo Romar said. “Not because either team is looking to stall. In that game, there just won't be a whole lot of open looks. It's going to be an interesting game.”

        The fourth-ranked Bearcats (20-1, 8-0 C-USA) not only are putting their nation-leading 20-game winning streak on the line but also a share of first place in the league's American Division. Marquette (18-3) and Charlotte are 7-1.

        The Golden Eagles won their seventh straight game Tuesday night with a 68-66 victory at Tulane. The score was tied at 56 when Marquette took over with three straight steals.

        “When we needed stops, we got them,” freshman Travis Diener said afterward.

        Sound familiar, UC fans?

        Marquette was ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 for six weeks — climbing as high as No.14 — then fell out Jan.7 after losing three of four games. This week, the Golden Eagles received the 28th-most voting points.

        The Bearcats, who are playing the first of three straight road games, won't have a hard time finding extra motivation. Last season, Marquette became the first C-USA team to beat Cincinnati twice in a regular season.

        Kenny Satterfield missed a forced 3-point try at the buzzer in a 47-44 loss in Milwaukee as UC went scoreless in the final 4:29 en route to its lowest point total in eight years. The Bearcats were outrebounded 36-24. Then the Golden Eagles won 66-63 in overtime at Shoemaker Center, UC's last home loss.

        “Everybody (for UC) is a little bit older, everybody's a little bit more sure of themselves,” Marquette coach Tom Crean said. “They rebound the ball so much better. They really do make you work every trip down the floor at both ends.

        “What they're doing even more so this year, they're capitalizing on your mistakes at a great rate and they're turning your turnovers into layups and dunks at a very high clip.”

        When Crean talks about his team, it sounds similar to Bob Huggins speaking of his Bearcats.

        Crean said his players come in every day with energy and enthusiasm to practice. They learn from each game. Individuals continue to improve.

        Marquette is 11-0 at home, 10-0 at the Bradley Center, Saturday's game site, where the Golden Eagles have won three of their last four against the Bearcats.

        UC has played only two games all season decided by fewer than 10 points (Oklahoma State, Saint Louis); Marquette has had eight.

        No C-USA team has defeated the Bearcats three straight times. Temple is the only team in the Huggins era to beat UC three straight times (January 1997, March 1999, February 2000).

        “Both of those teams are very competitive and very equal in a lot of ways,” DePaul coach Pat Kennedy said. “The distinction for Cincinnati with their run is just such a strong mentality of experience that knows time and score and how to put games away ... whereas maybe one of the younger Marquette kids just might make a mental error when it comes down the stretch.

        “It's going to be a whale of a game. I've got to still give the edge to Cincinnati because of experience. If it's in Milwaukee, then I think they're going right down to probably a buzzer-beater.”


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