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Digging A Little Deeper

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When I was a "TV guy" at Fox 19, there was one type of post-game comment I vowed never to run:

 

Any variation of "they wanted it more than we did."

 

There are three reasons why I tried to avoid it.

 

1.  It's what athletes instinctively fall back on when they don't want to (or aren't able to) explain what just happened.

 

2.  Fans overreact whenever a player on their team says it.

 

3.  Even when there's some truth to it, it obscures the real reason why a game was won or lost.

 

I'm not disputing that the Bearcats were not as intense as they should have been at the start of Monday's season-opener against Prairie View A & M, but frankly, that's not unusual for an early-season matchup between two schools from opposite ends of the college basketball spectrum.  It's not an indictment of Mick Cronin any more than Kentucky falling 18 points behind Miami is an indictment of John Calipari.

 

Here are the real reasons (at least in my opinion) that UC's game was closer than it should have been.

 

Yancy Gates needs to be more active on offense.  Even when the opponent collapses several guys around him, Yancy has to fight to get open and his teammates have to do a better job of getting him the ball - period.  Yancy attempted 5 shots from the floor and 2 shots from the line against a team that does not have anyone taller than 6'7".  He needs a dose of Danny Fortson selfishness at battling for position and demanding the ball.

 

The problem wasn't too many 3's - it was too many bad threes.  In the first half last night, 51% of UC's shots were 3-pointers (18 of 35 shots).  In the second half, it was 46% (12 of 26 shots).  That's not a huge difference.  But in the first half, the 'Cats passed it around the perimeter before hoisting threes.  In the second half, they penetrated before kicking it outside for wide-open threes.  That's been a staple of Rick Pitino's offense for years and it's what most of the good teams do - drive to the basket, collapse the defense, and throw it out to an unguarded player who can step into a 3-point shot.  When the Bearcats use that approach, I have no problem with them shooting treys.

 

Lance Stephenson had a subpar debut.  It wasn't all bad.  In fact, the first time Lance touched the ball he made a tremendous pass to Yancy Gates who promptly missed a wide-open dunk.  But Stephenson's shot wasn't falling and the end result was 7 points in 22 minutes.  I've seen enough of Lance at practice to know that he's not going to be held to 7 points very often.  (More on Lance to come)

 

The great equalizer.  Do you know why Miami nearly beat Kentucky last night?  Because the RedHawks were 15-for-26 (58%) from beyond the arc.  When Prairie View took a 15-point lead over UC on a 3-point shot by Duwan Kornegay with 5:11 to go in the half, the Panthers were 7-for-12 (58%) to that point from long distance.  Some of those shots were difficult, but the Bearcats left some good shooters open in the first 15 minutes.  Cincinnati pulled away when it forced Prairie View to take more contested shots.     

 

If the Bearcats improve in those areas on Wednesday night, they'll have a much more impressive showing against Toledo.

 

And nobody will say "they wanted it more than we did."

 

* * * * *

 

I asked Mick on the pre-game show where Lance Stephenson ranks among the top players he has ever recruited.

 

"He's the best," Mick told me.  "I've tried to downplay it and not put too much pressure on him because I don't want him to feel the weight of the world on his shoulders but from a talent standpoint he's probably the best player I've ever recruited.  Now remember, I didn't recruit Kenyon Martin - John Loyer did - I got to help coach Kenyon for four years, but as far as players I helped recruit, I would go with Lance, Francisco Garcia at Louisville, DerMarr Johnson, Kenny Satterfield, or Steve Logan.  Those guys were all great players, but I think that Lance has a chance to be better.  I think he's a combination of all of them because he's a scorer and a passer and he's got size at 6'5½" and I think he's going to have a long future ahead of him.  We have to start getting him comfortable in our offense because he's a potent offensive player and in the big-time games that we hope to be in this year, you have to have a guy who is hard to guard.  He's really hard to guard when he gets going at practice, so we just have to make sure we get him enough opportunities."

 

That's a pretty bold statement.  It's going to be fun to watch him develop this season.

 

* * * * *

 

It looks like freshman Sean Kilpatrick is going to redshirt this season.  Since UC has an abundance of players in the shooting guard/wing category, Sean isn't likely to get much playing time this season and it makes sense to preserve four years of eligibility.  It will help Sean immensely - he can practice every day, travel with the team, and get ahead academically. 

 

I'd love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.

 

And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

 

Enjoy a recent photo of the handsome lad in front of his beloved train set.

 

Smiling in front of his trains re.JPG

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