And according to senior guard Deonta Vaughn and junior guard Larry Davis, the Bearcats could feel it as well.
didn't get prepared for the game,"
After the game, Mick Cronin gave credit to UC assistant coach Tony Stubblefield, who prepared the PVAM scouting report. Everything Stubblefield said the Panthers would try, Cronin said, they tried. Point guard Christopher Jones was as quick as Stubblefield said. Whenever Darnell Hugge (a game-high 16 points) touched the ball, he went to his right - just like Stubblefield said.
The Bearcats, Cronin said, simply didn't follow the gameplan. That, and they didn't have the right mindset entering the game. Surprising considering this was, you know, the season-opener.
"Our lack of mental focus was very disappointing to the scouting report," Cronin said. "We practiced Saturday and Sunday as good as we've practiced all year. The problem is we were overconfident without reason. You don't just roll out the balls and win because you have more athletes. You have to go out and defend. The other team practices, too. They have a gameplan as well. All that matters is who executes better. It doesn't matter the name of the team or what conference they're from. There's no question that guys thought they would show up, we'd say 'Boo,' and they'd go home."
Cronin did, however, take some positives from the game. The Bearcats kept their poise when they fell behind by 15 points late in the first half. They improved their second-half defense. They showed some much-needed energy in the final 20 minutes.
"Trust me, I'm sure they're pretty embarrassed right now, but our guys need earmuffs," Cronin said. "You're only going to be as good as you play, not as good as people say. What people say is totally irrelevant. But this happens to everybody."
--The Bearcats gameplan on offense was to pound the ball inside to sophomore forward Yancy Gates and senior center Steve Toyloy (junior center Anthony McClain didn't play, but that wasn't a surprise considering how small the Panthers lineup is). Cronin knew PVAM would collapse into the post and sag four players back to defend the interior.
So, Cronin wanted Toyloy and Gates to pass to the perimeter where the Bearcats theoretically would get open looks.
But Toyloy had four turnovers (to go with four assists and just three shots), and Gates only got five attempts. That created problems, and as a result, UC attempted 30 3-point shots, many of them inadvisable (only four times last year did the Bearcats take that many long-range shots in a game).
"They picked their poison and tried to pack it in on us when we went low," Cronin said. "We took the bait of trying to shoot the 3. You have to shoot when you're open, but you have to probe the defense at least."
Said PVAM coach Byron Rimm II: "We switched up the defense a lot. We ran a lot of 2-3 zone, a lot of 2-3 junk. We're one of the top defensive teams in our conference (the SWAC). We do a lot of helpside defense. We're very small, so we have to be able to three-quarter the post and have backside help. They're 6-8, 240 pounds. We're 6-6, 205. We should lose that battle."
--Freshman guard Lance Stephenson - who has been as hyped as any Bearcats recruit in the last decade - had a rough debut, making just 2 of 10 shots (0 of 3 from the 3) to record seven points, four rebounds and two assists.
"He was a nervous wreck," Cronin said. "He'll get better. I knew one thing he would do when we were struggling; he was in with the (huddle) trying to fire guys up. You could see his frustration and his desire to win. But I have to teach him that there's no such thing as a 10-point shot. You just have to be solid."
Vaughn said he needs to take it upon himself to help Stephenson navigate through the early portion of his college career.
"I could see he thinks it's a lot of pressure on him," Vaughn said. "He's got to take his time. It's college ball right now, and the first couple of games, the speed is a lot quicker than high school."
--Other notes: Cronin said Stephenson tweaked an ankle in the first half, but he came back from the locker room later in the first half and proclaimed to Mick that he was fine ... UC improves to 91-17 in home openers.