Sunday, March 10, 2002
Conference tourney just a warmup
The Conference USA championship game started at the ungodly, TV-mandated hour of 11:40 a.m., so all the basketball junkies around the country could get an early start in their Barcaloungers.
The UC Bearcats hadn't been off the court 14 hours before they were back on it Saturday morning, a time meant for cartoons and sleeping. Eleven-forty? Is that what time it was? asked UC's Leonard Stokes. I haven't played a game that early since AAU, three or four years ago.
For top teams such as UC, conference tournaments are four-day fund-raisers for the leagues. If you want an argument that college basketball players should be paid, you could have made one Saturday at Firstar Center.
What does it mean?
UC came into the C-USA Tournament a No.1 or No.2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, left it a No.1 or No.2, and nothing that happened in between changed much of anything.
Coach Bob Huggins reacts in the second half.
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But, good lord, how the building rocked Saturday. The Firstar Center fans sounded like the inside of a hurricane. They made the Shoemaker Center regulars seem like frozen mackerel. Where have these people been the last decade?
Their hearts and lungs were rewarded with a 77-63 win. Cincinnati applied a convincing butt-whack to a Marquette team that will do no worse than a No.4 seed tonight. UC bottled up Marquette's springy sophomore, Dwyane Wade, who does a lot of things that make you say Wow. UC helped Marquette's No.2 scoring threat Cordell Henry to a 3-for-15 shooting day.
What does it all mean?
When we've won the conference tournament, we've made a run in the NCAA Tournament, Bob Huggins said.
Steve Logan and Donald Little celebrate at the end of the game.
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Not always. UC's last four conference titles have yielded a first-round loss and two second-round defeats. The '95-96 team won the C-USA and lost in the Elite Eight.
The notion that you're better off losing and resting, I don't buy it, Huggins said. I want the momentum.
In the zone
He couldn't ask for more than he got Saturday. UC started slowly on tired legs but stayed close, mainly because Field Williams was dropping 3-pointers like springtime rain. UC's designated hitter had three 3s in the first 14 minutes. This year, 54 of Williams' 66 baskets have been 3s. He's the Dave Kingman of college basketball.
Huggins even went to a 2-3 zone, to rest some legs. If we'd played man all day, we'd have had no chance, he said. Stokes couldn't recall the Bearcats playing a 2-3, ever. Not one possession, he said.
Huggins called timeout with 9:07 left in the first half and UC down 18-13. Urged by the funhouse crowd, the Bearcats finished the half on an 18-6 run. They spent the rest of the day hearing Beatle-like cheers.
Now the real work begins. It's good, if you're a UC fan, to note that Stokes had back-to-back good games Friday and Saturday, getting 27 points and 13 rebounds in 62 minutes, and that Immanuel McElroy clamped down on Wade and Charlotte's Jobey Thomas two games in a row.
Now, UC probably will get a No.1 seed for the first time. What does it mean? Theoretically, you're supposed to have an easier road, Huggins said, but we've never been a 1, so I don't know.
The C-USA Tournament provided some thrills. But they were fleeting.
E-mail: email@example.com. Past columns at Enquirer.com/columns/daugherty.
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