By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Seven days ago, the University of Cincinnati Bearcats were saying they deserved to be ranked in the Top 25. But after their 82-76 loss to Marquette on Saturday, they were beginning to worry about making the NCAA Tournament.
"This team isn't like the teams we've had in the past," said UC forward Leonard Stokes. "There's something missing. We've got to hurry up and find out what it is. We've got to find it quickly or we're going to look up and it's going to be the end of the season, and we're not going to be in the tournament."
The Bearcats, 13-5 and losers of two straight, began the day ranked 17th in the Rating Percentage Index, seemingly in good shape for their 12th straight invitation to the NCAA Tournament. But they are starting the toughest part of their schedule and seem to be regressing.
"In order for us to get to the tournament, there's going to have to be a big turnaround," said UC junior guard Tony Bobbitt. "... Basically, we quit today."
Bearcats coach Bob Huggins saw the same willingness to fold.
"We didn't fight it enough," Huggins said. "That's very uncharacteristic of what's happened here. I thought we started feeling sorry for ourselves. When I was younger, I'd probably tell you it won't happen again, but I don't know."
MAXIELL CURTAILED: Forward Jason Maxiell, UC's only low-post scoring threat, was held to a season-low three points and three rebounds.
Maxiell seemed to get overpowered by Marquette's taller front line but blamed his low production on the inability of UC's other post players to pull their weight.
"They had two big men boxing me out," Maxiell said. "Our other big men had just one little guard to box them out."
WHOLESALE SUBS: Huggins yanked his entire starting five out of the game with 2:04 elapsed after they failed to get back on defense following a turnover.
"We're going to get back on defense or they're sitting down," Huggins said. "If we still had 15 scholarships like we used to, they wouldn't have gotten back in the game. But I don't have the numbers."
FORMIDABLE FRONT LINE: UC has one of the smallest, least physical front lines in the Huggins era. The Bearcats have been outrebounded eight times this season and get little scoring from their center position.
But when Marquette coach Tom Crean looks out on the floor, he sees the same caliber of front line that UC has been known for in recent years.
"I think there's been too much made of that," Crean said. "I think they're really physical. We felt rebounding would be the key. They were coming off a game in which they were outrebounded. But they're excellent rebounders, good off-side rebounders."
TUERCK BIMEL HONORED: Jean Tuerck Bimel, who was instrumental in the birth of the UC women's intercollegiate athletic program, was honored at halftime.
Tuerck, a 1960 UC graduate, was named assistant athletic director of the Bearcats' women's intercollegiate sports program when it was founded in 1972.
She was named chief administrator for all of UC's Olympic sports teams in 1981 and served in that capacity until 1986.
MODEL BEHAVIOR: UC trainer Jayd Grossman is featured in a six-page spread in the winter 2003 edition of Jordan magazine.
Grossman, in his 10th year at UC, models Jordan athletic gear while demonstrating UC training techniques.
TICKETS REMAIN: Fewer than 200 tickets remain for next Sunday's home game against Oklahoma State, and about 900 tickets are available for the Feb. 15 Saint Louis game.
Marquette 82, UC 76
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