By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer
With eight straight wins and a 13-3 record, the University of Cincinnati Bearcats say they deserve to be back in the Top 25.
"Do I think we deserve to be in there?" asked senior forward Leonard Stokes. "We beat one team in there, and some teams in there have four losses. I think we deserve to be there."
Stokes was referring to No. 23 Oregon, which UC beat 77-52 at the Meadowlands on Dec. 17, the Bearcats' only win over a ranked team. They lost to Xavier 50-44 in their only other game against a ranked opponent.
UC has a supporter in Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz, whose team has played three Top 25 teams - Indiana, Louisville and Marquette.
"I think they are (a Top 25 team)," Lutz said. "They have three guys who can score for them night in and night out, and they have very good role players, guys who can score on a given night. I certainly think they can compete with Louisville and Indiana and Marquette."
Bearcats coach Bob Huggins, who has a vote in the coaches' poll, says he doesn't vote his team in the Top 25.
"I don't know if we belong or not," he said. "We'll probably figure that out in the next 11 games."
UC, which plays at DePaul on Wednesday night, will find out soon enough how good it is. The Bearcats play Marquette on Saturday at Shoemaker Center, followed by a Feb. 5 road game at Louisville and a Feb.9 home game against No. 13 Oklahoma State.
UC began the season ranked No. 23 but fell out of the Top 25 after losing to Dayton on Nov. 30.
Saturday's sellout was UC's second of the season at Shoemaker Center and the first since the Xavier game Dec. 7.
Before the Charlotte game, the Bearcats averaged 11,372 fans in eight games at Shoemaker Center, almost 2,000 below capacity. UC also played against Miami at U.S. Bank Arena, and that game drew 14,276.
"I can't say I'm disappointed," said Bearcats athletic director Bob Goin. "I think the education of our basketball fans, including the students, is that they're picking and choosing. They know a game that's really going to be a challenge to us. Every program goes through that. I went through it at Florida State in football."
But with the season's most attractive home games on the horizon, so are the sellout crowds. The Feb. 1 game against Marquette, the Feb. 9 game against Oklahoma State and the Feb. 22 game against Louisville are all sold out.
Goin said the rest of the home schedule is close to selling out.
With 20 points, Stokes has 1,135 during his UC career. He passed George Wilson, Bill Lammert and Melvin Levett on the school's scoring list and needs 12 to pass Jim Holstein for No. 24. ... The Bearcats have used eight different lineups in their last nine games.
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