Wednesday, October 30, 2002

UC women have look of winner

4 returning starters, one catch: The post

By Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Never in the 31 previous years of women's basketball at the University of Cincinnati has there been the kind of hype and expectation facing the Bearcats this preseason.

Four starters return from a team that finished 27-5, entered the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time, set a school attendance record (7,246 for Louisville) and won its first NCAA Tournament game (over St.Peter's).

The Bearcats are ranked No.17 by Street & Smith's magazine and 20th by Athlon Sports, Basketball News and Lindy's.

    UC and Texas Christian tied for first place in Conference USA's Preseason Coaches' Poll. The Bearcats won the league tournament last season; TCU won the regular-season title.
  UC junior Valerie King was named to the five-player all-league team.
• Coaches' Poll
T1. Cincinnati
3. Tulane
4. Houston
5. Louisville
6. Charlotte
7. DePaul
8. Marquette
9. Memphis
10. South Florida
11. Saint Louis
12. UAB
13. Southern Miss
14. East Carolina
• Preseason All-C-USA Team
Chandi Jones* (Houston), Sandora Irvin (TCU), Valerie King (Cincinnati), Teana McKiver (Tulane), Sara Nord (Louisville).
* Preseason Player of the Year
Here's the trick for 17th-year coach Laurie Pirtle: Though she wants the community excited about her program, she also wants to make sure the players keep perspective.

"It's a real funny place to be outside the lines and then go back inside the lines and tell the kids we're not that good right now," she said.

"We have four great, great, unbelievable returners, a couple great, great kids off the bench (Carolyn Alexander, Leslie Knoch) and a phenomenal freshman guard (Micah Harvey). It is undeniable we will be very good. From a coach's eyes, that's a different thing right now."

What the coaches see is a piece of the puzzle missing inside.

UC is trying to replace Tammy Douglass and Laura Wilder, who were not just productive post players but also great team leaders. Wilder is on the staff as a graduate assistant.

Aside from that, the Bearcats have the most starting talent in Pirtle's tenure.

Senior point guard K.B. Sharp will be in her third year as a starter and needs just 28 assists to become UC's all-time leader. Junior shooting guard Valerie King has led the Bearcats in scoring the past two seasons and was first-team all-Conference USA last year.

Junior forward Brittani Young is UC's best defender and has started 42 consecutive games. Sophomore center/forward Debbie Merrill was second-team all-league andC-USA's Freshman of the Year last season.

"We need to go out every day and work hard to prove that we deserve the rankings, which is what we're working on right now," Young said. "I think we have the talent and the ability to be that good. We just have to get our post together."

The Bearcats are hoping 6-foot-1 senior DeAnna Stevenson, a Withrow High School graduate, can take over at the other frontline position. Stevenson came to UC after two years at Cincinnati State but played a total of just 82 minutes in 14 games last season.

Anne Stephens, a 6-4 freshman, and 6-1 freshman Meghan Hillman also could help on the frontline.

The UC players are driven by last season's sour ending: a 75-56 loss to South Carolina in the NCAA Tournament.

The Bearcats were ahead 41-40 in the second half before the Gamecocks scored 25 consecutive points.

"We think about it every day," Sharp said. "They were more talented, but we were a better fundamental team running our plays. We just didn't follow through. South Carolina was an embarrassment. We're trying to take care of the things we need to do to make sure it doesn't happen again."

UC opens its season at Mississippi State, which is ranked 16th by Lindy's.

Cincinnati hopes to be playing in Shoemaker Center in March when first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games are held there.

"I never before have demanded as much as I'm demanding now - there's no question," Pirtle said. "Because I can see that it's there, that we have the talent to do it."

EXHIBITION: The UC women play their first exhibition game at 2p.m. Saturday against Met Rx Elite. The team will be introduced before the game, and afterward players will sign team posters. Admission is free.


Expansion Texans are surprising
Texans coach has new challenge
Bengals Email: QB is always an issue
NFL Notebook: Late hit puts Hilliard out for season

UC women have look of winner
Coaches pick UC's Maxiell as all-league
NKU selling UC tickets
Xavier women, new coach getting acquainted
Staak thrilled to join local basketball hall

Elder, Kings crowned poll champs
Dixie Heights reclaims Ky. top spot for itself
Ohio state football polls
Ohio football playoff schedule
Ohio football notebook

St.X stuns Lakota West in regional soccer
Soccer Highlights: Madeira win sets up date with champs
Ohio boys soccer results
Soccer, volleyball schedules

Pickerington coach suspended for misconduct

Kent, Maddux become free agents
Confident Wedge takes over Indians
Yost to Milwaukee, Macha to Oakland

Minus Shaq, Lakers get drilled in opener
NBA Roundup: Kings trounce Cavs

Minnesota visit haunts Buckeyes
OSU's Clarett listed as probable
Maryland, Navy renewing rivalry

Mail This Story (Click here) Send this story to a friend.

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


Paterno Won't Coach Penn St.-Temple Game

Paterno Won't Go to Penn St.-Temple Game

Spurrier Shadow Looms Large in Florida

No. 15 Rutgers Bracing for Historic Game

Hurricanes Stunned by Teammate's Murder

Big East logo
UC joins Big East
• A special section of complete coverage, as the UC Bearcats join one of the nation's elite sports conferences.


Terps Sign Gary Williams Through 2010-11

Bob Knight Approaches Winning Milestone

Buckeyes' Oden Content to Wait for NBA

Larranaga Enjoy Spoils of Final Four Run

Hansbrough Leads AP's All-America Team

AP's Preseason All-America Team

Gators Runaway Preseason No. 1 in Poll

Gators Return Starters to Defend Title

Texas Tech's Jackson Returns to Practice

Sutton Released From Hospital in Okla.


Paris Headlines AP's All-America Team

ACC New Powerhouse in Women's Basketball

Maryland Tops AP Women's Basketball Poll