By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Just as quickly as Louisville's loss to Saint Louis this week opened the door for the University of Cincinnati to climb back into the Conference USA championship race, Charlotte slammed it shut.
The Bearcats played one of their most dismal games of the season Saturday night and lost to the 49ers 74-64.
Bob Huggin argues with referee Steve Olson after being called for a technical foul in the first half.
| ZOOM |
It was UC's fourth loss in seven games at Halton Arena and kept the Bearcats three losses behind league-leading Louisville with six games to go.
UC was outrebounded 50-34. Charlotte grabbed 24 offensive rebounds.
"We had our worst practice of the year yesterday," Bearcats coach Bob Huggins said. "I've never had a team get outrebounded by 16. They just took it to us. I don't know what to tell you."
UC (14-7, 6-4) has lost four of its last five games. Charlotte is 10-12, 5-5 in the league.
Huggins was called for his first technical foul of the season with 4:05 left in the first half after a foul by forward Eric Hicks. The Bearcats trailed by seven at the time, but the 49ers outscored them 9-1 at the end of the half to take a 43-30 halftime lead.
UC came out with a bit more fire in the second half. After Charlotte increased its lead to 15, the Bearcats ran off six straight points to get within 45-37, but they never got closer than seven points the rest of the way.
UC's Armein Kirkland steals the ball from Charlotte's Butter Johnson.
| ZOOM |
"We didn't come out with the intensity we should have," UC forward Armein Kirkland said. "That set the tempo for the whole game."
Huggins tried a variety of approaches to get back into the game, including full-court pressure and a 2-3 zone. The changing defenses slowed Charlotte's offensive production, but the Bearcats failed to capitalize when they had the chance and were constantly hammered on the boards, frequently after missed 49ers free throws.
Senior point guard Taron Barker led UC with 12 points. Bearcats forward Jason Maxiell, who averaged 22.5 points in his previous two games, was held to 10 points and fouled out with 2:24 to go.
UC forward Leonard Stokes scored only seven points, nine below his average, and committed six turnovers. Field Williams also scored seven points, six below his average, on 2-of-12 shooting.
"I ain't talking," Williams said as he walked out of the Bearcats' locker room. Barker and Chadd Moore also declined to answer questions.
Curtis Nash led Charlotte with 20 points. Demon Brown scored 18, connecting on six 3-pointers to give him 112 for his career, breaking the C-USA career record previously owned by Jobey Thomas, his former teammate.
UC actually outshot Charlotte, 41.2 percent to 36.8 percent, but the 49ers attempted 17 more shots.
"That's the team we expected to see more of this season," said Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz. "Our guys are always excited to play Cincinnati. They've been the standard of excellence in this league. We knew we had to play very physical in order to have a chance."
Huggins continued to use a multitude of player combinations. At one point in the first half, he had Hicks, Moore, Stokes, Kirkland and Tony Bobbitt on the floor.
Nothing seemed to work.
"He was telling us the way we played yesterday in practice that we done lost the game," Hicks said. "He knew. He was right."
With the score tied at 20, the 49ers went on a mini-run on two free throws by Eddie Basden, a UC turnover and a fast-break layup by Basden. Charlotte spread its lead to 29-22 with 5:21 to go on two more free throws by Basden.
Official J.B. Caldwell then called Huggins for a technical. After Tory Reed made the first of two free throws, Huggins yelled across the floor at Caldwell, "Can you blow the whistle at the other end?" Caldwell then called the technical.
Nash missed both technical free throws. Reed then made the second of his free throws and the 49ers led 31-22. UC cut the lead to five on a Barker basket with 2:31 to go. But Charlotte answered with nine straight points to take a 43-29 lead.
Team rebounds - 3.
Team rebounds - 8.
3-pointers - UC 10-25 (Stokes 1-3, Williams 1-9, Barker 2-3, Moore 2-2, Lucas 1-1, Bobbitt 3-6, Kirkland 0-1), C 8-21 (Grier 0-1, Brown 6-14, Baldwin 0-2, Nash 2-3, Basden 0-1). Technicals - UC 1 (Bench). Officials - Olson, Wood, Caldwell. Attendance - 9,105.
Changes few, expectations many for Reds
Central Division rundown
Reds Notebook: Anderson seeks No. 5 spot
Reds E-mail: Readers lower boom on Boone
Cards move Ankiel to bullpen
Bengals will mine combine for prospects
Top pick means possibilities
Lewis knows how to win; it's his way
NFL Notebook: Bears might pursue free agent QB
Xavier 93, Rhode Island 70
XU Notebook: Chalmers rides pine after fouls
XU women run past La Salle
Charlotte 74, UC 64
NCAA TOURNAMENT LOOK AHEAD
Preview to Selection Sunday
The Enquirer's projected NCAA field
NCAA Tournament sites, dates
Postseason ticket information
MORE COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Miami 69, Marshall 49
Kentucky 68, LSU 57
UK Notebook: Barbour coming around
Louisville 73, Marquette 70
Kentucky Wesleyan 71, NKU 68
Local college basketball games
Michigan 70, Ohio State 54
Wisconsin 71, Indiana 59
Hunter's dream depends on dirty work
Austin loses IBF bantamweight crown
MORE LOCAL SPORTS
Ducks, Cyclones lose
Miami blanks Buckeyes in hockey
Hyde Park man set to run 800-mile Iditarod
World's most psychotic sporting events
Enquirer Power Rankings
Sports on TV-Radio
MORE PRO SPORTS
Sweep in Earnhardt Jr.'s reach
Tiger, Mickelson go one-on-one today
NBA Games: Blazers back on track
Agassi, Sanguinetti meet in finals
Trust N Luck wins Derby prep
HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
Revised basketball schedule
Alter tries to beat LeBron
Boys Games: No. 1 Withrow finishes undefeated
Girls Games: Ursuline ousts Princeton
Ky. Games: Dixie duo hit milestones
Indian Hill, Ursuline swimmers win districts
Girls swimming results
St. X, Western Brown win wrestling sectionals
Campbell tops Ryle for wrestling title
Schaffer trades appendix for assists
N.Ky. skater aims for nationals