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Bearcats unconcerned about lack of close games

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Through 13 games this season, the Bearcats have been challenged to within single digits only twice (Wright State, 77-69; IPFW 65-59).

Not in any game this year has a team been within three points during the final five minutes.

Entering Big East play, it's almost certain to change. Against Seton Hall, there's a strong possibility it will change.

Are the Bearcats ready?

It's almost an unfair question to ask. Complaining about winning by too much is like the voluptuous blond complaining too many men hit on her and won't leave her alone.

Nobody wants to hear it and nobody thinks it's a problem.

For a team who changed the priorities of its offense to one where everyone scores and no one player would be considered the go-to scorer -- how will they react when they need one bucket to win? How will they react when the pressure of the moment rises to a level they haven't experienced this year?

If you're looking for concern in that regard, you'd have better luck hitting on the voluptuous blond.

"I've got about 36 hair follicles left," Mick Cronin said. "I think I've saved a few. We play in close games in practice. We played enough close games last year for a lifetime."

Indeed. Last year, 10 of UC's 32 games were decided by less than three points or in overtime. They lost six of them. Not counting the Big East tournament, the Bearcats lost 5 of 7 games decided by a possession or in OT.

The mere mention of some of them elicits brutal memories. St. John's, 52-50. Marquette, 79-76. Dare I say, West Virginia, 54-51.  

Flipping those three finals alone would have been the difference in flipping their postseason position.

Darnell Wilks points to all those types of games which came before during his four years at UC for the reason this year will be different.

"All of us are juniors and seniors," Wilks said. "We know what a tough game is like. We have experienced it. So, even if we were in a tough game, we would somewhat be able to handle it."

This team may not have a Lance Stephenson to rely on when the clocks at 10 seconds and they trail by one, but Wilks views that as an advantage should the situation arise.

"We are a lot more jelled team," Wilks said. "There wouldn't be no standing around. There wouldn't be no watching one person. We would be able to work the whole offense and score." 

While confident his team can handle, Cronin is preparing his team for the inevitable situation of the one-possession game almost certainly in their not-so-distant future. On Thursday, they watched film of the conclusion of Wednesday's Marquette-Vanderbilt game to review late-game situations that haven't presented themselves to UC this year.

In yet another advantage of reaping the rewards of a veteran group, Cronin will be more relying on experiences of years past rather than film of someone else's games should the pressure situation arise Friday.

"You are always teaching those things even though you don't see us in a close game," Cronin said. "As a coach you would be a fool not to prepare for those situations. But I think it would be inaccurate to say we don't have experience in close games after last season." 

Actually, the heartbreak of past failures represents one of the biggest reason they haven't been in any close games this go-round.

"We know not to put ourselves in those situations," Wilks said. "I have been in three years of tough games. So, we all figure that we come out the first half and do what we have to and keep it going the second half that, we should be good."

That is one way to solve the problem.  

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