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UC-USF thoughts

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Perhaps it wasn't exactly the win the Bearcats - not to mention coach Mick Cronin - would have wanted, but UC will take it. The 78-70 victory against South Florida gives the Bearcats a 4-3 Big East record and slightly strengthens their resume for possible NCAA tournament inclusion. And yeah, there were some problems that need to be corrected before they travel to Louisville on Sunday, but maybe, they should just take a moment to reflect in a hard-fought win.

 

Particularly with the way the Bearcats shot the ball (55.6 percent from the floor) and with how little sophomore forward Yancy Gates played. Oh yeah, and the fact Lance Stephenson (sprained ankle) was missing as well.

 

"I'm really happy we got out with a win," Cronin said.

 

And he should be. But there's plenty on which the Bearcats can improve. Goal No. 1: convince Gates that he needs to stop getting himself into foul trouble.

 

Gates was coming off his stalwart performance on defense against Notre Dame's Luke Harangody and his game-winning shot to beat the Irish. Against the Bulls early, he looked ready for another big game, scoring six-straight points to give the Bearcats a 10-4 lead. But he picked up foul No. 2 just four minutes into the game and he took a seat on the bench as the Bulls went on a 6-0 run of their own to tie the contest.

 

In the second half, he was whistled for his fourth foul with 13:51 remaining, and once again, Cronin had to yank him from the game. Gates finished with eight points and two rebounds. He'll need to be more productive than that on Sunday in Louisville when he has to face Cardinals sophomore center Samardo Samuels, who's averaging 16.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game for the Cardinals.

 

"He has to adjust," Cronin said on his postgame radio show. "If he gets the quick early one, I'm going to take him out. And he was dominating. It's tougher for a big guy because your man could get by you and drive to the basket and then they may jump into him. It may not even be a foul on him. But he has to know in that situation that it's just not worth it early in the game. It affects us."

 

Luckily for UC, Steve Toyloy - who was battling a stomach virus - managed to play 28 minutes and finish with nine points and eight rebounds.

 

"Steve Toyloy gutted it out," Cronin said. "We had to sub him out because he was having stomach flu issues. He had to come out and throw up a couple of times. It wasn't a pretty sight from what I hear."

 

--Freshman guard Lance Stephenson sprained his ankle during Tuesday's practice, the same ankle he hurt earlier in the season, and after not playing him vs. the Bulls, Cronin said Stephenson was day to day. He could suit up against the Cardinals on Sunday, though. He plans to give Stephenson the day off from practice Thursday but would like to see him practice Friday and/or Saturday in preparation for the Louisville game.

 

Cronin, though, will not push him too hard.

 

"I'm not going to put Lance in jeopardy," Cronin said. "We have a long season. If he's healthy, he'll play. If he's not, he won't. I'm not going to throw him out there if he's hobbling. Our season is too long, and we have too many things to accomplish. He's too important to just put him out there if he can't practice."

 

--Although Cronin seemed pleased with the response he got from freshman point guard Cashmere Wright after Cronin benched him for the Notre Dame game because of a lack of effort during practice, he started freshman Jaquon Parker in his place. And Parker rewarded him with a 15-point, five-assist effort.

 

"Coach (Larry) Davis told me before the game just to be solid and get everyone involved," Parker said. "And when you score, just to make the best of it. Shots were going in. It was a good game for me. Oh man, that's good (on having five assists and zero turnovers). There were some close calls."

 

South Florida coach Stan Heath wasn't happy to see it.

 

"Very surprised," he said. "I won't be too happy with my assistant coaches for scouting. He stepped up. I didn't really know how to look at Lance not playing. I was afraid we let our guard down and relaxed. I was afraid that Deonta (Vaughn, who scored a team-high 20 points) would step up, and both of those things happened. A guy like Parker really stepped up and made some great plays and shots. He did a nice job for their team."

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