Needless to say, the UC Bearcats didn't have their best night on Tuesday at the Sun Dome against the South Florida Bulls. Deonta Vaughn got hot late to whittle a double-digit USF lead, but UC still lost by eight to a team they should've beaten.
A key stat was missing 18 lay-ups (as counted by Coach Cronin's staff). Another key stat was Yancy Gates and Lance Stephenson combining for just seven points and three rebounds.
You can pretty much write it down--when that's all you're going to get from those two marquees players--that's probably going down in the "L" column.
"Of course, it was a disappointment," said Gates on Thursday. "I think the disappointment was we were able to go to UConn and get a win, then to go down and play a South Florida team that's kind of a similar team to UConn and not to be able to pull that one out."
Really, it defies logic.
Anyone that's ever been around a sports team will tell you that one game's results don't necessarily indicate how the next game will be. If you "overlook" a team in the Big East, you best be prepared to have your fannies handed to you.
"It's kind of too late in the season to take things like that as a learning point," admitted Gates. "We need to win games as of right now."
You could blame it on youth. That would be a truthful statement. It's also an "old" statement that many fans are tired of hearing.
"I think we do play some young players," said Gates in defense. " Cashmere didn't get to play at all last year. Lance, he comes in and this is his first year. You expect those kind of bumps in the road where you may not win this game or that game. It's February, we feel we should know how to win those type of games down in South Florida, games like that."
All true statements. There are no days off in the Big East.
Unless, you're not a factor on the floor. Then you get a courtside seat to watch Big East basketball, which would be highly sought after if it weren't for the fact that you're on the team.
Yancy Gates made a mere cameo in the USF game, logging just 10 minutes.
"It would be frustrating for any player," said Gates of his "pine time". "The coach is making the call to win. You sit there and try to cheer on your team when you're on the bench. When your number's called, you need to be ready to play. Any player would want to be out there playing. South Florida played a smaller group, Coach Cronin thought it would be best to go small. It doesn't have any effect on my game or anything. I just feel the action was made to try and win the game."
Gates could face the same situation Sunday when Marquette comes to town with their small line-up. Small, but effective.
"We all know that Marquette's a smaller team," said Gates. "They shoot more threes than anybody in the country. We just have to prepare for us 'bigs' to play more defense out on the perimeter, more than we would in a normal Big East game. We usually guard a lot of pick and rolls. Playing Marquette we'll be guarding more of the 'pick and pop' type of game."
If they don't guard them, they'll find themselves on the bench again wondering what happened to their minutes. Gates has logged a lot of time this season, but has also played just 10 minutes three times now and had one game where he only played for 240 seconds (four minutes).
If you see #34 on the floor more often that not Sunday, things are probably going UC's way.
Ditto for Lance Stephenson.
Winning teams don't complain of their youth, they embrace it.