Monday, March 15, 1999

Bearcats anything but intimidating

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BOSTON — On the fourth shot of the possession, Quincy Wadley, a reserve guard playing with a deep and painful bruise on his non-shooting hand, calmly dropped in a three-pointer from the right baseline.

        Wadley was open. Open? Wadley could have flossed and made a phone call and still had an uncontested jumpshot. It was late in the first half, and the big, bad UC Bearcats had officially left the tournament.

        You could offer any number of reasons why Temple bounced UC Sunday. The Bearcats didn't press until it didn't matter. They didn't set screens, they didn't speed up the game. According to Mel Levett, they didn't do anything they were told to do in the morning shoot-around.

        “Mental lapses,” Levett said. “I can't say why.”

        It's true enough. You can't beat Temple — patient, disciplined, wise Temple — without being smart, or at least aware. As Owls guard Rasheed Brokenborough offered, “They tried to beat us athletically. They didn't use their heads against our zone.”

        But Wadley's shot told you all you needed to know about this game. After three misses, the Owls got three offensive rebounds. Rebounding is a little bit technique and a whole lot want-to. UC didn't want to.

        Temple didn't mind. Wadley grabbed the ball and floated a swish. That made it 29-13 with 2:38 to go in the half. It finished a 12-minute, 23-7 Temple run in which the Bearcats forgot who they were. Or at least who they claimed to be.

        The big, bad Bearcats. R.I.P.

Share the blame
        “Yeah, I remember that” shot, Pete Mickeal said. “We gave up on it. It was a total team non-effort. That ain't the Bearcats. Usually, we're getting after it. We're in somebody's stuff. We just watched that one.”

        You wouldn't think they'd go out this way, allowing a team four shots on one possession, the last a wide open jumper. The Bearcats failed in lots of areas against Temple. The one you least expected them to flunk was determination.

        They were supposed to attack. This was their image, anyway. They could overcome lousy shooting with brute defense and inside muscle. They would intimidate. They relished that image, reveled in it, exploited it against teams that didn't know better.

        Only, by the second round of the NCAA Tournament, everyone attacks and nobody is going to be fazed by a name on a jersey.

        “These kids just willed this win,” said Temple coach John Chaney.

No outside shots
        Possibly, their will was aided by Cincinnati's 37 percent shooting from the field. Levett and Steve Logan shot a combined 8-for-27. Outside scoring was a rumor, which could explain why Mickeal took just four shots, two of which were blocked.

        This was not a complete team, not all year, and coach Bob Huggins spoke its epitaph neatly after the loss. “We don't have anybody who, when he's open, is going to make shots,” he said.

        Huggins had been 5-2 against Temple before Sunday, but that was with Nick Van Exel, LaZelle Durden and Darnell Burton. Shotmakers. This team had the erratic Levett and Steve Logan, the freshman. Logan played well enough Sunday, but you can't expect a freshman to run the team and lead its offense.

        “You could see us from the sideline going like this,” said Chaney, squeezing his arms together. “Bring (the zone) in closer. You've got to make shots from the outside. (Then) the zone becomes a picnic.”

        Wadley hit the shot, Temple went up 16 and squeezed. Against the Owls, a 16 -point deficit might as well be 160. They use the clock. They value each possession, a useful trait in March. Huggins likened them to a football team with a great running game. “We let them have the ball too long,” Huggins said.

        That, too. Mostly, the Bearcats forgot who they were. Or who they thought they were. They liked playing the role of intimidator all year. It didn't help them Sunday.

        Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty welcomes your comments at 768-8454.