Sunday, February 10, 2002

SULLIVAN: No denying Bearcats' dominance


Logan's an ace

By Tim Sullivan
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Bob Huggins is too close. He sees his Cincinnati Bearcats every day, sees all their warts, knows all their weaknesses.

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        Huggins declines to offer an objective opinion about his basketball team because he doesn't have one. Like a man studying an elephant through a microscope, proximity limits his perspective.

        Skip Prosser, by contrast, can see the big picture. His Wake Forest Demon Deacons have played four of the nation's top six college basketball teams, so Prosser has both a basis for comparison and sufficient distance for a detached view. And what the former Xavier coach saw Saturday was scary.

        “I think they're really good,” Prosser said of the Bearcats. “They can play with any of those (elite) teams. They have a great player (Steve Logan) who has the ball in his hands a lot, which is a great thing to have. They can beat you in a lot of ways. And you know Bobby is going to coach the heck out of them.”

Deacons impressed

               Despite five straight weeks in the Top 10, a 20-game winning streak and the nation's No.1 scoring margin, the Bearcats have spent most of the season flying just below the national radar. Their schedule was perceived as soft and, consequently, their opportunities for exposure had been limited. But Saturday's 103-94 win at Wake Forest should raise both their profile and their expectations.

[img]
Wake Forest's Taron Downey (4) and Cincinnati's Leonard Stokes (13) chase a loose ball. Wake coach Skip Prosser is in the background.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
        UC beat a ranked opponent, on the road, on national television, in the heart of Atlantic Coast Conference country. It was, Logan said, a “statement” game. What the statement said was, “Watch out.”

        “We played Duke, Maryland and Kansas,” said Wake Forest assistant coach Dino Gaudio. “And (the Bearcats) are right there with them. The thing that impresses me is their perimeter guys score and defend so well and they're very capable inside, too.”

        “They play good defense and score 103 points,” Wake guard Broderick Hicks said. “What is anybody going to do?”

Logan the ace

        In their first 23 games, the Demon Deacons allowed only one opponent to score more than 86 points. That was top-ranked Duke. Huggins told his players at halftime Saturday that they could not win a scoring contest with Wake Forest, and they effectively laughed in his face, putting up 61 points after intermission.

        Wake Forest was missing starting forward Josh Howard, who is out with a bad ankle, but Howard's absence did not fully explain the extent to which the Bearcats were able to exploit Prosser's defense.

        Logan is UC's constant, a player so skilled and resourceful he could create shots in a straitjacket.The senior guard scored 30 points Saturday, with about as much elbow room as an airline passenger gets in a coach class center seat.

        “A legit 30,” Hicks conceded.

        What ultimately will determine UC's fate in the NCAA Tournament will be how much help Logan's teammates provide. When Immanuel McElroy and Leonard Stokes make opponents pay from the perimeter, they force the defense to extend and thereby create cracks. This leads to driving layups and free throws and lessens Logan's load. McElroy scored 19 points Saturday; Stokes 17.

        “If I can step up and be consistent and Logan plays the way he's playing, that takes this team to another level,” Stokes said.

        Saturday,at least, UC's level looked pretty lofty.

        Contact Tim Sullivan at 768-8456 or e-mail: tsullivan@enquirer.com.
       

       



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