LOUISVILLE - They're walking the ledge now. They're living dangerously, if they're living at all. The UC Bearcats have made a season of making things hard. What's a few more days?
They lost to Southern Mississippi in the first round of the Conference USA Tournament Wednesday. That'd be the same Southern Mississippi that lost by 16 to Arkansas State and 46 to Auburn, the same Southern Miss with an RPI of 152. Now, the Bearcats will wait for Sunday night.
They think their 17 wins deserve an NCAA Tournament place. "We're 24 in the RPI. There's never been a team that's 24 in the RPI that hasn't gotten in," Bob Huggins said. They hope good wins over Louisville, Oregon and Oklahoma State will force selective amnesia on the Selection Committee, whose members might be required to forget this stinker of a loss.
Can't shoot straight
Bob Huggins shouts to his team.
(Gary Landers photo)
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You can't go into a gunfight worried about the
ammo. UC hasn't shot, isn't shooting and, wherever it lands next week, isn't likely to start shooting. The Bearcats had one field goal in the first 10 minutes of the second half Wednesday night. With 3.8 seconds left, down two, the best they could do was a 20-foot prayer by Chadd Moore. It missed.
"We're supposed to attack the goal," Huggins said of that play. "Why we didn't, I don't know. Yeah, I do. They don't listen. They haven't listened all year. That's why we're in the position we're in."
"Score the ball" is the new saying among coaches. You can't win if you don't score the ball. (As opposed to what? The canned ham?) Huggins says this a lot, usually in the negative.
Easier when scoring
UC fans Joel Dolinski of Springdale and Scott Greenwalt of downtown appear stunned.
(Gary Landers photo)
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Things go better when you score the ball. The offense looks prettier, the hopes are brighter, the beer is colder. When you don't, when you struggle just to miss 3-pointers, you are going to look the way the Bearcats looked against Southern Miss. And you're going to make Huggins' hopeful rhetoric about a Sweet 16 appearance look like a hot-air ball.
UC led by one at half but lost the lead for good with 13:24 to play. The Bearcats spent the rest of the time hoping Jason Maxiell got fouled. They shot 38 percent and had all of eight field goals in the second half.
Stokes in the clutch
At the end, the only guy scoring the ball was Leonard Stokes. His layup tied the game at 57, his lane jumper tied it at 59. With 40.6 seconds left, his baseline 10-footer rattled around and in, to tie it at 61. Everyone else shot blanks.
These Bearcats aren't talented or resourceful enough to compensate when the shots aren't dropping. March is about moving on. Forget the TV show: March Madness is the original Survivor. Accept no substitutes.
Given how erratic the Bearcats have been, it's hard to see them getting past next weekend.
UC waits now for Sunday and clemency. A pardon from the committee for what occurred here Wednesday. Given the shooting woes, though, you wonder how much it will matter.
TODAY'S BASKETBALL GAMES
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Bearcats blindsided by Southern Miss
DAUGHERTY: Committee holds UC's fate
Like Mardi Gras for Southern Miss
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C-USA Tournament Glance
Marquette's Wade C-USA player of year
XU right at home in UD Arena
West again A-10 player of year
Dayton finally gets to play
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