Sunday, March 10, 2002

UC wins C-USA tourney


Bearcats turn to zone to beat Marquette

By Michael Perry mperry@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[img]
UC star Steve Logan had a slow start but finished with 26 points.
(AP photos)
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        They were sitting in a hotel room about 11:30 p.m. Friday in the Embassy Suites in Covington watching tape of Marquette when University of Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins broke the news to his players:

        The Bearcats were going to play a 2-3 zone against the Golden Eagles in the championship game of the Conference USA Tournament Saturday. Huggins had been thinking about it for a while.

        “I was shocked,” senior guard Steve Logan said.

        “It didn't have anything to do with them,” Huggins said after UC's 77-63 victory before 15,242 fans at Firstar Center. “It had a lot to do with us. I just didn't think, with 12 hours' rest, that we could chase them around through all their screens and everything. As long as I've coached, we've never played 2-3 zone. It was really just to try to conserve some energy. I was afraid that we would come out and run out of gas. They had a hard time scoring, so we stayed with it.”

        No.5-ranked UC went to the zone midway through the first half and pretty much stayed with it the rest of the day.

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Donald Little blocks a shot.
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        The Golden Eagles were ahead 18-13. Then UC outscored them 18-6 in the last nine minutes of the first half to go into the locker room at intermission with a seven-point lead.

        The Bearcats blew open the game early in the second half. After Marquette pulled within 31-27, Cincinnati scored 10 straight points start a decisive 22-8 run. Marquette trailed 53-35 with 10:14 remaining and never could get back in it.

        “We had open looks,” Marquette coach Tom Crean said. “We just couldn't knock them down.”

        “I hate to trick people,” Huggins said. “We kind of like to line up and play. But you've got to do what you've got to do to win. I don't like zones, because I don't know who to blame. Man-to-man (defense), I've got a little bit of an idea who to blame.”

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Coach Bob Huggins reacts in the second half.
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        Marquette shot just 33.8 percent for the game, 30.8 percent after UC went to the zone. Guards Cordell Henry and Dwyane Wade were a combined 9-of-28 (.321) with 27 points.

        UC's backcourt of Logan (26) and Leonard Stokes (12) combined for 38 points on 11-of-29 shooting (.379). It was the first time in three games with Marquette the Bearcats guards won the scoring battle. Immanuel McElroy added 12 points.

        Cincinnati won its third C-USA Tournament title — the others were in 1998 and '96 — and earned the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. UC also was the conference's regular-season champion and now hopes for a No.1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

        “It's just a great feeling,” Stokes said. “Nobody expected us to be where we are right now at this point except for the guys on the team. It's just been an incredible season.”

        In improving to 30-3, UC set a school single-season record for victories. That dates to the first year of the program in 1901-02.

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Logan and Little celebrate at the end of the game.
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        “I think these guys get everything they deserve be cause they've worked so hard,” Huggins said. “You know, it's not easy for these guys, I think, sometimes, because Lo gets so much recognition — and deservedly so. Sometimes you (could) get a little bit of jealousy or whatever. There is none. Absolutely none.”

        The postgame celebration was similar to the one that followed UC's overtime victory over Memphis at Shoemaker Center six days earlier. The players danced, then prayed at midcourt.

        The best moment came after the players had finished snipping off their pieces of one of the nets. Huggins had started his postgame radio show when the Bearcats signaled for him.

        He finally took off his headset, walked over and cut off the net, waved it in the air, then tossed it over Donald Little's head. Logan put his arm around Huggins and the players dragged him into a little celebration while some messed with their coach's hair.

        “Every now and then, it's nice to know there's another side, too,” Little said.

        Cincinnati didn't just win the C-USA Tournament, it steamrolled the competition, beating South Florida by 22, Charlotte by 16 and 13th-ranked Marquette (26-6) by 14.

        Saturday's game was physical, with emotions running high on both sides.

        Little and Terry Sanders of Marquette almost got into it. Logan took exception to a hard foul from Marquette center Scott Merritt. Henry went down after a hard intentional foul by UC freshman Jason Maxiell.

        Was it getting out of hand?

        “No, I don't think so,” Huggins said. “We've got great kids, they've got great kids. When you play as hard as what those two teams play, and you're as physical as what those teams are, every once in a while somebody may lose their temper. I don't think there was any chance whatsoever it was going to get out of control. Our guys weren't going to, because they don't want to come over and deal with me.”

        Crean paused a long 10 seconds when asked the same question.

        “They won today,” he finally said. “They deserved that. It was a physical game. We're going to watch the film and go from there.”


MARQUETTE (63)
                           fg    ft    rb             
                   min   m-a   m-a   o-t   a  pf   tp
O Blankson          18   2-6   0-0   2-3   0   0    4
O Nnamaka           32   3-7   2-3   5-8   2   4    8
S Merritt           15   1-5   1-2   5-7   0   5    3
D Wade              29  6-13   3-4   1-3   2   5   16
C Henry             39  3-15   4-4   1-3   6   1   11
T Diener            27   5-9   0-0   1-2   0   3   15
D Diggs              9   0-3   0-0   1-1   0   0    0
J Harris            20   2-6   0-0   3-6   0   3    4
T Sanders           11   0-1   2-2   0-2   0   1    2


_____________________________________________________
TOTALS             200 22-65 12-15 19-35  10  22   63
_____________________________________________________


Percentages: FG-.338, FT-.800. 3-Point Goals:
7-22, .318 (O Blankson 0-1, O Nnamaka 0-1, D 
Wade 1-2, C Henry 1-6, T Diener 5-9, D Diggs 
0-3). Team Rebounds: 4. Blocked Shots:  0.  
Turnovers: 14 (C Henry 5, D Wade 3, J Harris 
2, O Nnamaka 2, O Blankson, T Sanders). 
Steals: 5 (C Henry 2, O Blankson, O Nnamaka, 
D Wade).


CINCINNATI (77)


                          fg    ft    rb             
                   min   m-a   m-a   o-t   a  pf   tp
J Davis             12   1-1   0-0   2-4   1   5    3
I Mcelroy           30   3-4   6-8   1-4   3   1   12
D Little            37   2-4   2-5   3-6   2   2    6
L Stokes            34  3-10   6-8   2-7   2   2   12
S Logan             39  8-19   8-8   0-3   4   2   26
F Williams          18   3-5   0-0   0-1   0   0    9
T Barker             1   0-0   0-0   0-0   0   0    0
R Flowers            1   0-0   0-0   0-0   0   0    0
R Crawford           1   0-0   0-0   0-0   0   0    0
J Maxiell           27   4-8   1-2   3-8   0   5    9


_____________________________________________________
TOTALS             200 24-51 23-31 11-33  12  17   77
_____________________________________________________


Percentages: FG-.471, FT-.742. 3-Point Goals:
6-10, .600 (J Davis 1-1, S Logan 2-5, F 
Williams 3-4). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked 
Shots: 2 (L Stokes, J Maxiell). Turnovers: 11
(S Logan 4, D Little 2, I Mcelroy 2, J Davis,
L Stokes, F Williams). Steals: 2 (S Logan, L 
Stokes).


-----------------------------------
MARQUETTE            24  39   -  63
CINCINNATI           31  46   -  77
----------------------------------- 


Technical fouls: None. A: 15,242. 


Bearcats Stories
- UC wins C-USA tourney
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Logan earns MVP honors
UC women hope for home court

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XU makes its case for higher seed
UC, Xavier set to fill out dance card
NCAA to redraw tournament map
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Men's college basketball scores
Men's NCAA automatic bids
NKU women reach Elite Eight
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Wilmington women lose D-III regional
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Tom Groeschen's high school column


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