Sunday, December 19, 1999

UC Notebook

Verdict: UC good, not great

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Steve Logan reacts to a foul call against him.
(AP photo)
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        Bob Huggins has said it before. He had to say it again. And he hopes his players finally get the point.

        “I've said from Day 1 we're on course to be good, not great,” Huggins said after his top-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats fell for the first time this season, losing 66-64 to Xavier in the Skyline Chili Crosstown Shootout Saturday.

        “We're not the No.1 team in the country. I think I know. And I've told them that. But there's a lot of people who have been telling them they're the No.1 team in the nation. I think they believed them instead of me.”

        Huggins had a simple explanation: “We don't guard. Our individual defense is very poor. Our individual offense is very poor. Until we really decide we're going to get better at those things and make a conscious effort to improve, we're going to remain a good team.”

Kenyon Martin and Ryan Fletcher celebrate Martin's basket and a Xavier foul with 6:07 left. Martin's FT gave UC the lead.
(Saed Hindash photo)
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        The Bearcats players didn't believe this game alters the course of their season, despite the loss knocking them from the ranks of the unbeaten, and most assuredly from the No.1 ranking.

        “I don't think it does anything,” said senior forward Pete Mickeal, who scored 17 points. “We lost, that's the bottom line. It's over. We can't do anything about it now. We've got to go back, look at the film and do some things better.”

        Senior center Kenyon Martin said this was UC's “first challenge” of the season, and the ultimate outcome showed the Bearcats didn't handle it well — although they did mount a second-half run to tie it late and recover from an 11-point first-half deficit.

        Xavier's players said they could hear the Bearcats talking to each other during the first half, saying, “We'll make our run. We're fine.” The run came, but it was too late, Martin said.

        “Basketball's a game of runs,” Martin said. “This was the first time we'd been down like that. We knew we had to play. We fought back, but I guess our final push was too late.”
Pete Mickeal shoots over Kevin Frey.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
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        The Bearcats seemed frustrated during the game by Xavier's zone and pressing defense, but afterward they were more frustrated by their own poor play.

        Martin finished with 16 points and was a big part of the comeback to tie it late, but he also had six turnovers and took just two shots in the first half. Guards Steve Logan, DerMarr Johnson and Kenny Satterfield combined to shoot 7-of-15 (Satterfield was 3-of-4), but they were just 2-of-7 on 3-pointers.

        Defensively, the Bearcats broke down on the outside early and the inside late.

        “I don't think they threw us out of whack,” Mickeal said. “It was a lack of what we did, what we as players did. We just didn't play as well as we usually do.”

        As Mickeal said, the bottom line was a loss, an 8-1 record and no “No.1” next to the word “Cincinnati.”

        “It's just one game,” Martin said.

Buckeye brew

        Appearing on WLW-AM's pregame call-in show, Ohio Governor Robert Taft said he would like to see a cross-state shootout between UC and Ohio State.

        “I would love to get that done,” Taft said. “We need that to happen.”

        Skyline Chili has tried to get involved in making the game happen, but the Buckeyes have shown little interest in scheduling a game against the Bearcats.

        UC last played OSU in 1961-62, in the national championship won by the Bearcats, 71-59.

Up next
        The Bearcats play their third straight road game Wednesday night at Oklahoma (9 p.m. ET, ESPN).

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