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Heading to Hawaii ...

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... But before the Bearcats basketball team lands in the Aloha State to compete in the Maui Invitational, there are a few things UC needs to continue to develop. As the Bearcats kicked off the season facing Prairie View A&M and Toledo, they could afford to make mistakes and still win the games fairly comfortably.

 

However, playing Vanderbilt on Monday, potentially Maryland on Tuesday, and, assuming they win one of those games, one final team on Wednesday (either Gonzaga, Arizona, Colorado or Wisconsin), they'd do well to clean up some aspects of their game.

 

First and foremost, the perimeter defense. After allowing Prairie View to make 41.4 percent of its 3-point shots last Monday, Toledo's long-range shooters had a field day on Wednesday, connecting on 52.4 percent from beyond the arc.

 

Part of the problem, Mick Cronin said, is the coaching staff hasn't spent much time working on a basic man-to-man defense. Instead, it's been more involved in implementing more complicated looks. Also, there's still some inexperience on this squad.

 

"Two things: we're a young team," he said. "We have some new pieces, and because we're subbing and playing a deep rotation, you don't have the cohesiveness defensively. It's something we're going to have to get used to every time as we change lineups. Make sure we know you don't have to help Rashad Bishop because he doesn't get beat. You don't get that feel and that flow as you're changing units all the time, and the defensive cohesiveness is not there yet.

 

"We've put a lot of things in early and spent a lot of time on a lot of things. We've got (defensive) presses in, and we've got things we haven't showed yet. We just haven't spent time on our team on man-to-man, half-court defense. It shows a little bit. But you can't just play basic man defense."

 

Plus, two of the team's starters - Lance Stephenson and Cashmere Wright - are freshmen who have never had to worry so much about playing on-ball defense.

 

"Lance is young and whenever you have youth, they're still figuring out how to play defense," Toledo coach Gene Cross said. "He's going to be a great player when it's all said and done, but he's still learning. Whenever you have young guys who are trying to figure it out all, they make defensive errors. Cashmere made some errors the other day (in the PVAM game), and he didn't make as many today. He's getting better."

 

--This shouldn't be much of a concern next week in Hawaii - unless the Bearcats end up facing Chaminade on Tuesday - but Cronin also talked about respecting the opponent in relation to following the coaching staff's game plan.

 

"Every game is different in college basketball," Cronin said. "The only difference between mid-major teams and high-major teams is size. Mid-major teams can shoot it and pass it. With the three-point shot, everybody is dangerous. You have to approach every game with a gameplan and scouting report, knowing what we have to do to win this game. If they don't, we are going to lose."

 

He talked about that because he was disappointed UC allowed Toledo's two best shooters to connect on 8 of 13 three-point shots, especially after telling the team that the only way the Rockets could beat the Bearcats was if they allowed Toledo's Stephen Albrecht and Jake Barnett to make long-range shots. 

 

--One positive for the Bearcats last Wednesday was the play of sophomore forward Yancy Gates. Not just his statistical production, though that was pretty good in the Toledo game (14 points, three rebounds, three assists). But it was also what he accomplished when he didn't have possession of the basketball.

 

"It was, by far, the best Yancy has ever moved without the ball in the zone offense," Cronin said.

 

Said Gates: "Just trying to be more active. I watched film with the coaches and they were talking that I needed to be more active on offense, moving without the ball. When (Toledo) went to zone, I tried to be more active."

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