Saturday, March 09, 2002

UC meets Marquette in final

By Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Donald Little yells after being fouled Friday night.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
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        This is exactly as it should be: The two best teams in Conference USA will square off at 11:40 a.m. today for the tournament championship and the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

        Not that either team needs it.

        Fifth-ranked University of Cincinnati, C-USA's regular-season champion, is trying to earn a No.1 seed for the NCAA Tournament. No.13-ranked Marquette would like a No.3 seed.

        The Bearcats (29-3) advanced to the final with a 71-55 victory over Charlotte on Friday night. Marquette (26-5) knocked out Houston 85-73 in the earlier game Friday.

        Only once has the winner of the second semifinal game captured the title: Marquette in '97 in St. Louis.

        “I think we're all smart enough to realize our biggest problem is getting some rest,” UC coach Bob Huggins said. “We tip off when we should be having breakfast.”

Immanuel McElroy takes an off balance shot against Charlotte.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
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        Marquette has reached the C-USA Tournament final for the third time. It won the championship in 1997, beating Charlotte 60-52. Cincinnati defeated Marquette 85-84 in overtime in the '96 final.

        The Bearcats are in their fourth C-USA tourney final. They lost last year to Charlotte, beat the 49ers in 1998 at Shoemaker Center and beat Marquette in '96 in Memphis.

        “I think they're going to come out with a lot of enthusiasm,” UC center Donald Little said. “We've got to match their intensity and hit them early.”

        Said UC senior Immanuel McElroy: “They're going to rebound. They're going to attack. It's nothing new. We know what they're going to do. It's going to be a war.”

        UC and Marquette split their two regular-season meetings. Marquette won 74-60 on Feb. 2 in Milwaukee; UC won 63-62 on Feb.22 at Shoemaker Center on Little's jump shot with three seconds left.

        The Golden Eagles cost themselves a chance to share the regular-season championship with a surprising 51-46 loss at East Carolina in their second-to-last regular-season game. They finished one game behind Cincinnati in the C-USA American Division and overall standings.

        “We've played them twice this year,” Marquette sophomore Dwyane Wade said. “We're 1-1 against them, so we're looking forward to playing them again. We know it's going to be a good game.”

        Wade has averaged 22 points against the Bearcats, and his backcourt mate, senior point guard Cordell Henry, has averaged 16.5.


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