By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer
It didn't take too long for Saturday's story line to unfold.
UC's Field Williams collides with Marquette's Todd Townsend and is called for the foul. Jeff Swinger/Cincinnati Enquirer js.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
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Leonard Stokes missed a layup on the University of Cincinnati's first possession, followed at the other end of the floor by Marquette's Robert Jackson powering his way in for an easy basket against UC center Kareem Johnson.
Those two possessions were signs of the Golden Eagles' physical dominance and the Bearcats' offensive ineptitude, both of which were on display at Shoemaker Center.
Before four minutes passed, UC coach Bob Huggins already had used 11 different players, more a sign of desperation and frustration than depth.
The Bearcats absorbed an 82-76 loss from 18th-ranked Marquette before a sellout crowd of 13,176 fans.
But it was worse than that.
UC (13-5, 6-2 Conference USA) made the final score respectable only because the Golden Eagles (15-3, 7-1) sat on the ball for the final few minutes and because the Bearcats' Tony Bobbitt fired in 12 points in the last 4:17.
Make no mistake about it. Marquette dominated UC in every phase of the game.
Still, the Bearcats were within eight points when Bobbitt bounced a pass to forward Jason Maxiell, who had a clear path to the basket for a dunk with 1:25 to go.
Leonard Stokes pleads his case to coach Bob Huggins.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
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But Maxiell couldn't handle the ball. Bobbitt then fouled Dwyane Wade, who made both free throws to make it 77-67 with 57.9 seconds left.
After an eight-game winning streak, UC has lost two in a row for the first time since Jan. 20 and Jan. 24, 2001. The Bearcats also have stacked the odds against winning an eighth straight C-USA championship, trailing Louisville by two losses.
UC entered the game knowing it had to contain guard Wade, the conference's leading scorer at 23.2 points a game. But it wasn't Wade who did the most damage, it was Jackson, the Golden Eagles' 6-foot-10 center who transferred last year from Mississippi State.
Jackson led Marquette with 21 points, scoring six of those in the first 3:05 as the Golden Eagles established their inside dominance.
"He can score the ball," Huggins said of Jackson. "He makes a big difference. I know what it's like when you have guys in there who don't score."
The Bearcats trailed 20-12 before Wade, who finished with 16 points, even scored. The preseason C-USA Player of the Year didn't have a field goal in the first half, nine minutes of which he spent sitting with two fouls. Still, the Golden Eagles led 39-30.
Jason Maxiell fights for a rebound with Marquette's Robert Jackson.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
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"We always want to go inside," said Marquette coach Tom Crean. "You've got to be able to score in the paint, whether it's on the drive, an offensive rebound, or a post-up. You've got to find different ways to score against Cincinnati because they take so many things away from you."
UC, which shot 37.5 percent for the game, again saw its offense stagnate. The Bearcats' approach consisted largely of getting the ball to Field Williams and hoping he could launch an accurate 3-pointer. Fortunately for UC, Williams scored a game-high 22 points or the result would have been even more lopsided.
For the second straight game, UC was outscored badly in the paint. This time, it was 34-20 in favor of Marquette. The Golden Eagles outscored the Bearcats 26-15 on second-chance points and outrebounded them 37-22.
All of which led Huggins to conclude that a lack of effort was as much responsible as a lack of talent.
"It's both," Huggins said. "We're not very good. We're going to have to really fight through some things. We don't fight it. You don't settle for being screened. You get through the screen. How hard a concept is it to box your man out? That's not hard."
UC must brace for Wednesday's game at No. 8 Louisville, followed a week from today by No. 9 Oklahoma State at the Shoe.
If nothing else, Huggins expects a better effort in those games.
"If we can't get ready to play Louisville and Oklahoma State, then we need to just forfeit the rest of our games," he said.
Team rebounds - 5.
Team rebounds - 3.
3-pointers - Marquette 5-16 (Townsend 1-4, Diener 3-10, Bradley 0-1, Chapman 1-1), UC 7-23 (Stokes 0-2, Williams 3-11, Barker 0-3, Bobbitt 4-7). Technicals - None. Officials - Hillary, Croft, Lusk. Attendance - 13,176.
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