Sunday, February 23, 2003

Cronin coaches vs. former team

UC notebook: Assistant runs U of L after Pitino's ejected

By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer

UC's Leonard Stokes can... finger roll.
(Criag Ruttle photos)
| ZOOM |
Jason Maxiell takes it strong to the hole.
| ZOOM |
Tony Bobbitt gets the crowd going.
| ZOOM |
Louisville coach Rick Pitino leaves the court after getting his second "T".
| ZOOM |
When Louisville coach Rick Pitino was ejected from the University of Cincinnati's 101-80 win Saturday with 11:05 to go, associate head coach Mick Cronin was left in charge.

Suddenly, Cronin, the La Salle High School and UC graduate, was matching wits with UC coach Bob Huggins, his former boss from his days as an assistant at UC.

"I wasn't even thinking that way," Cronin said. "It's Coach Pitino's show. At that time, the whole staff is just trying to figure out a way to get our team refocused and get back to our style of playing."

Cronin wasted no time taking charge. He paced the sidelines just like Pitino and immediately set about making substitutions.

Louisville trailed 77-43 when Cronin took over. The Cards outscored the Bearcats 37-24 from that point.

After he got his first technical from official Tom O'Neill, Pitino said he was prepared to call it a day.

"I thought it was time to just go relax," Pitino said. "There was no beer available. Nobody was offering me a soft drink. I'd seen enough."

It was Pitino's first ejection since his last game at Rupp Arena as Kentucky's head coach on March 2, 1997 against South Carolina.

There were five technicals in the game, four against Louisville.

IMPROVED DEFENSE: The UC defense did a much better job on Louisville point guard Reece Gaines and forward Francisco Garcia than it did in UC's 77-71 loss at Louisville on Feb. 5.

Gaines scored 18 points to lead Louisville but scored most of them after the outcome had been decided.

He also was called for a technical after his shot was blocked by UC's Eric Hicks with eight minutes left in the first half.

"We couldn't get in the flow because there was always stoppage of play," Gaines said. "It's not about the refs. We just didn't have a chance to play basketball. I guess we didn't adjust quickly enough to how the game was being called."

Garcia, who burned UC for eight 3-pointers and 24 points in their first meeting, scored only eight Saturday.

"We didn't leave them," said Huggins. "Reece is a great player. We just tried to shadow him as much as we could. Down there, we over helped on him and that opened things up for their other guys."

OFFENSIVE GAME: UC's 101 points was the most scored by one team in the UC-Louisville series. The combined 181 points was also a high for the series.

UC 101, No. 4 Louisville 80
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Cronin coaches vs. former team

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• 1:00 p.m. Sat. Nov. 20
• Nippert Stadium
• Radio: WLW-AM 700


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