Saturday, March 18, 2000

Mickeal key as Bearcats seek renewal




BY PAUL DAUGHERTY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Pete Mickeal scored 15 points and put the clamps on Wilmington's top scorer.
(AP photos)
| ZOOM |
        NASHVILLE — Young Brett Blizzard couldn't get a sniff. He clanged a 3-pointer to begin the game, and for a long time that was his highlight. Blizzard needed 12 minutes to get off another shot. Pete Mickeal sealed him like a Zip-Loc bag.

        This is what Mickeal does, when his knees are as right as his attitude. The UC Bearcats needed him Friday. Actually, in these brave, new post-Kenyon days, they need everybody, every day. But no one more than Mickeal, whose mind is as tough as his defense.

        Can we? Will we? What will it be like? Beyond playing hard, they didn't know what to expect from themselves Friday. They didn't know who they'd be. For the first several minutes, they played like it.

        “It's like wearing glasses,” Steve Logan said. “You take 'em off, you don't see as well. We've got to believe in ourselves. We've got to believe we can see just as well without the glasses.”

        Mickeal kept them believing. He shut down Blizzard. He scored six of UC's first 10 points when the rest of the Bearcats offense looked like it needed an oil change.

        The Seahawks had a puncher's chance against UC Friday; Blizzard, the freshman guard and 3-point ace, was to be the one throwing the hooks. He never got one off.

        “Not today,” Mickeal said to him, over and over, 10 times at least, before the game. Not today.

        Blizzard ran Mickeal through so many screens, the UC senior looked like he was chasing a mouse through a maze. He always ended up in the right spot, though: In Blizzard's shirt.

It's time to grow up
        “You can tell he plays with his heart,” Blizzard said later.

        UC won easily, 64-47. It helped that the Seahawks shot like they were aiming softballs at milk bottles.

        Yet it remains a lousy time to retool the Mercedes. It's a bad month to fix a compound fracture. March is no time to learn if you can still win. March is a time to have that figured out.

        We're asking the Bearcats to rebuild in a week the house they took five months to construct. Donald Little, please block shots like Kenyon Martin. DerMarr Johnson, take more shots, score more points. B.J. Grove, grow up.

        Gather your hearts. Remove them from your shoes. Do it now. Because tomorrow is too late.

        The Bearcats did what they had to do Friday, overcoming a tentative start to out-talent Wilmington. Mickeal's not-today defense set the tone. “I do that all-around thing,” he decided later. “If I score 30 and my guy scores 20, what have I done?

        “It's kind of desperation, actually. I didn't want this to be my last game.”

        Not much chance of that. But Sunday? Sunday is Tulsa. Tulsa absolutely destroyed UNLV Friday, in every way. Running, banging, shooting, defending. Tulsa is a load.

Can they pull it together?
        So are the Bearcats. Still. They're starting to believe that. The wonder is if they have enough time to get on a roll. Friday helped, but it didn't answer that question.

        The Bearcats wore wristbands with Martin's No.4 on them. Afterward, they pulled on T-shirts bearing the slogan, This Tourney's 4 You.

        Martin was resplendent on the UC sideline, in a brown pullover shirt and matching pants. The gold cross around his neck looked to be lifted from the wreckage of a Spanish galleon. Martin's audition for the NBA is done. Time to work on the GQ cover.

        Every so often, Martin would make a coaching suggestion that Bob Huggins ignored. You couldn't help looking at him, his broken right fibula stretched between his chair and the scorer's table, and wonder what might have been.

        “We're not the same team offensively,” Huggins said. “Before, we didn't have to do much but figure how to get the ball to Kenyon.

        “You'd rather not” rebuild a team and its psyche in a week, he said. “But they're good kids who listen and try.”

        What a feat it would be to pull this whole thing together in time for Indianapolis.

        Paul Daugherty welcomes your comments at 768-8454.

UC 64, UNC-Wilmington 47
Mickeal key as Bearcats seek renewal
Game worsens Martin's pain
Mickeal's defense wakes up Bearcats
Johnson becomes shot-blocker
West Ender Shelton will lead Tulsa vs. UC
Tulsa impressive in romp over UNLV
Tournament game coverage at Cincinnati.com/madness
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