Thursday, March 13, 2003

Bearcats blindsided by So. Miss


NCAA chances in jeopardy after first-round exit

By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LOUISVILLE - Any notion the University of Cincinnati Bearcats might have had that the postseason would be any different from the regular season was quickly dispelled Wednesday night by Southern Miss.

[img]
Bob Huggins watches the final moments while assistant coach Andy Kennedy looks away.
(Gary Landers photo)
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The Bearcats of the postseason looked pretty much like the same team that limped through the last 11 games of the regular season.

No. 5 seed UC shot miserably from the field, failed to convert crucial free throws and generally looked lost on offense as it fell to No. 12 seed Southern Miss 63-61 at Freedom Hall in the first round of the Conference USA Tournament.

Junior forward Greg Johnson, who led the Golden Eagles with 21 points, made two free throws with 54.2 seconds remaining to break a 59-59 tie. Leonard Stokes then answered for UC with a basket at the other end.

But a follow shot by Jasper Johnson with 3.8 seconds left gave Southern Miss the victory and sent UC home with its earliest conference tournament exit since it lost in the first round of the Metro Conference Tournament in 1991.

[img]
Eric Hicks is dejected.
(Gary Landers photo)
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Johnson's game-winning shot was the third shot of the possession for Southern Miss, which twice came up with crucial offensive rebounds.

"Let's face the facts," said UC coach Bob Huggins. "We're not the most talented bunch. We've got to outwork people."

UC (17-11) had one final chance to tie, but Chadd Moore's jump just before the final horn was short.

"We were supposed to attack the goal," Huggins said. "Why we settled for a jump shot, I don't know. Yes I do. They don't listen. They haven't listened all year."

Jason Maxiell led UC with 17 points and 12 rebounds.

"We just didn't come out ready to play, I guess," said Stokes, who scored 14 points for UC. "It's disappointing. We should have gone out and played our hearts out."

[img]
Taron Barker shoots over James Pattman.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
The Bearcats were content to stand outside and launch long jump shots. As has been the case so often this season, most of them were off the mark. UC shot 38.2 percent from the field and was just 8-of-25 in the second half.

Southern Miss (13-15 and No. 155 in the Ratings Percentage Index) advances to face No. 4 seed Saint Louis (15-12) in tonight's quarterfinals. UC goes home for three days of waiting to see if 17 wins and its No. 24 ranking in the RPI are enough to get it into the NCAA Tournament.

"The things that hurt us the most were not making shots and not defending in the first half," said Stokes.

Freshman forward Armein Kirkland said the Bearcats did not take Southern Miss lightly despite the Golden Eagles' losing record.

[img]
Jason Maxiell races Greg Johnson for a loose ball.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
"We all knew they were a good team," Kirkland said. "They beat Memphis at home. I don't think they beat us. I think we beat ourselves. We didn't defend as well as we should have and we didn't make shots we should have made."

UC led by as many as nine in the first half and after settling for a one-point halftime lead, was up by five, 40-35, after three Field Williams free throws with 17:30 to go.

Southern Miss then outscored UC 19-9 over the next eight minutes and went ahead 54-49 with 9:05 left.

UC, stepping up its defensive pressure, pulled even on a pair of free throws by Maxiell and a layup by Stokes to make it 57-57 with 4:15 remaining.

Jasper Johnson's layup made it 59-57, Southern Miss, with 3:51 to go. The Bearcats appeared to tie the score again on their next possession, but a would-be Moore layup was blocked in what looked like a goal tending violation that wasn't called.

In the end, though, it was UC's poor shooting that doomed it to an early exit from the tournament.

"It just seemed like we were out of sync," Kirkland said.

E-mail bkoch@enquirer.com

DAUGHERTY: Committee holds UC's fate
Like Mardi Gras for Southern Miss
Other Conference USA games
C-USA Tournament Glance
Marquette's Wade C-USA player of year

Southern MissMFGAttFTAttRAFTOTP
G. Johnson2682033813121
Carter26010052310
Gaines3551455822015
Stiggers38251266155
Myles21041220411
Haywood35240031006
J. Johnson1771500611015
Pattman2000000200
Totals20024631012391316863
Team rebounds: 1.

CincinnatiMFGAttFTAttRAFTOTP
Stokes325845232414
Maxiell365137111222017
Johnson19110050312
Williams2731033012112
Barker32390083217
Moore7020001100
Meeker0+000000000
Hollman1000000100
Lucas2000000000
Hicks20120051002
Bobbitt16270011115
Kirkland8130021012
Totals20021551419371314961
Team rebounds: 2.

Southern Miss3429-69
Cincinnati3526-61
Attendance-9,217. 3-point goals-Southern Miss 5-13 (G. Johnson 2-4, Stiggers 0-1, Haywood 2-3, J. Johnson 1-5); Cincinnati 5-17 (Stokes 0-1, Williams 3-10, Barker 1-2, Bobbitt 1-4). Technical fouls-None. Officials-Hillary, Thornley, Thibodeaux.




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Scores and game wrap-ups

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Bearcats blindsided by Southern Miss
DAUGHERTY: Committee holds UC's fate
Like Mardi Gras for Southern Miss
Other Conference USA games
C-USA Tournament Glance
Marquette's Wade C-USA player of year

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