Thursday, March 07, 2002

UC looks for 2 in 1-2 punch

'Cats need scoring support for Logan

By Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        University of Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins is trying to see the glass half-full. If he doesn't know who the heck is going to complement Steve Logan's scoring each game, how can an opponent?

        Donald Little scores six points one night, 15 the next. Jason Maxiell has 18 one night, three the next. Jamaal Davis scores 15 one night, two the next. Immanuel McElroy scores 18 one game, eight the next. Leonard Stokes goes for 36 points one night, 11 the next. Field Williams has 18, then scores three.

        Get the picture?

        “Our other five or six guys have the ability to score, we just don't know what day it is,” Huggins said.

        The top-seeded and fifth-ranked Bearcats begin Conference USA tournament play at 7p.m. today against eighth-seeded South Florida, which defeated Alabama-Birmingham on Wednesday night 65-62.

        UC defeated South Florida 78-68 in Tampa on Jan. 26.

        Though Logan has scored in double figures 51 consecutive games, for the Bearcats to do well in the conference tourney and NCAA Tournament, it would help to have a consistent No.2 offensive threat.

        Stokes, Cincinnati's second-leading scorer (11.9 ppg) and a third-team all-conference selection, knows that should be him.

        He is the shooting guard. UC is 15-1 over the last two seasons when he scores at least 16 points. He is capable of exploding offensively, having scored a career-high 36 against DePaul and 30 at Charlotte.

        The 6-foot-6 junior is also capable of disappearing offensively. He has scored in single digits in four of the last five games, including two points against Southern Mississippi, no points at Louisville and six points against Memphis.

        “The better I play, the further we can go,” Stokes said. “We can't have any games where I don't score or I score like six or eight points. I've got to step it up. It's like I'm a senior.”

        Here is what happens: When Stokes misses a few early shots, he stops being aggressive. When he picks up early fouls, he stops being aggressive. When Logan is hot, the whole team seems content to watch.

        This may sum up Stokes: “I don't want to take a shot where it's going to cost us the game.”

        The coaches and players continually tell Stokes how much confidence they have in him. They tell him that he can help the team in so many other ways than scoring.

        Yet when Stokes is not scoring, other aspects of his game sometimes suffer.

        “One thing I love about working at UC is we don't spend a lot of time stating the obvious,” first-year assistant coach Andy Kennedy said. “We don't try to reinvent the wheel. To a man, everybody who is involved with this program understands that Leonard Stokes is a great, great kid. He is what college athletics are all about. He's going to take care of his academics. He is going to be productive in life.

        “Basketballwise, he is a really self-conscious kid, and when things don't go well early, he takes it very hard on himself. And in a game, it's very difficult when you're self-critical, to get yourself out of slumps.”

        When Stokes scores in double figures, he averages 5.2 rebounds. In the games he scores fewer than 10 points, he averages 3.8 boards.

        “We've talked about it many times,” UC coach Bob Huggins said. “Lenny doesn't want to do anything wrong, so sometimes he doesn't do anything. And it's an admirable thing, really; it's not a bad thing. He's such a good kid; he's almost too good a guy.”

        Kennedy said that when UC's wing players — Stokes and McElroy — are aggressive and attacking the basket and playing well, “it takes our team to a whole new level.”

        Problem is, those two have only scored in double figures in the same game six times, and only twice since the Crosstown Shootout against Xavier on Dec. 14. UC has won those six games by an average of 23.2 points.

        McElroy is playing some of his better offensive ball, shooting 49.2 percent from the field and averaging 11.4 points over the last seven games.

        Stokes, on the other hand, is shooting 31 percent from the field and averaging just 5.8 points over the last five games.

        “Lenny is certainly capable of coming up and being a major, major difference-maker for us,” Kennedy said. “I think he's conscious of it. What we talk about constantly is stay aggressive. I think our team, when we're aggressive, has a chance each and every night. When we're passive and we're on our heels and we're counter-punching, we're not as effective.

        “It goes in cycles. I think Lenny's going to have a great tournament.”



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Coming up this week

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vs. South Florida (3-4)
• 1:00 p.m. Sat. Nov. 20
• Nippert Stadium
• Radio: WLW-AM 700


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