By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer
MILWAUKEE - The University of Cincinnati Bearcats have known for several weeks that they would not repeat for the eighth straight time as Conference USA champions.
But it really hit home Saturday after their 70-61 loss to Marquette clinched the regular-season championship for the Golden Eagles.
If that wasn't bad enough, three UC players - senior Leonard Stokes, junior Tony Bobbitt and freshman Armein Kirkland - had to walk back onto the Bradley Center floor after the game on the way to the interview room in the midst of the Marquette celebration.
"It was disappointing to have it happen in my last go-around," Stokes said. "But there's nothing we can do about it now. Congratulations to them. They played well the whole season."
Stokes shook hands with several Marquette fans as he made his way through the crowd that had swarmed onto the floor.
Kirkland could only wonder what it felt like for Stokes.
"It's my freshman year, so I'm not used to winning," Kirkland said. "But for the rest of the team it really is a shock. It's a surprise. They've never had to experience this before."
HOT START: UC got off to a great start against the Golden Eagles, sprinting to 5-0 and 20-11 leads, largely on the strength of its 3-point shooting.
The Bearcats knocked down four treys in the first six minutes.
"We just wanted to go out and compete and give it all we've got," Bobbitt said. "The last time in Cincinnati, we didn't come out with the intensity to match their intensity. Lenny Stokes said, 'Look, let's just go out and give it everything that we've got.' "
UC's early fire subsided when Marquette made a run to tie the score at 23, but the Bearcats responded to take a four-point halftime lead.
They seemed to lose some of that intensity, though, at the start of the second half.
"I didn't think we came out with a whole lot of energy at the start of the second half," said UC coach Bob Huggins.
YEOMAN'S EFFORT: UC forward Jason Maxiell had eight rebounds and scored eight points but was limited by foul trouble to 27 minutes.
"We don't have the ability to throw it close and score," Huggins said. "They have three guys they can throw it close to and score. We have none. Well, we have Max if he ever can stay in the game. I thought he was aggressive and assertive today and rebounded the ball."
NOTES: Junior center Rod Flowers remains on indefinite suspension. He did not make the trip. ... Marquette has won five of its last seven meetings against UC. ...The crowd of 18,790 was the second-largest for a regular-season college game in Wisconsin history.
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