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The Morning After: UC 76, DePaul 60

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I guess there will always be doubters. I guess people will always take the critical view of the Bearcats given the recent history of disappointment. I guess, until they secure a signature win against a Top10 program, people will fall back to the they-haven't-played-anybody crutch.

Those people are still out there this morning.

They point to how terrible the Blue Demons looked at times. They continue to bring up the non-conference schedule.

Let them talk, Mick Cronin said on Tuesday night after UC did what good Big East teams do and disposed of the Blue Demons in a first-half rush that rendered a comeback improbable.

What I liked almost more than the absured 34-6 run the Bearcats made to create the insurmountable lead, was the confidence with which Cronin spoke about the team's second half.

I wrote about it in my postgame column.  

It would be easy to expect Cronin to be happy with a 16-point win against a Big East foe. In fact, in years past he should have been. The last time his team won a conference game by this much was Feb. 13, 2008 vs STJ, 60-43.

Not to say he wasn't happy to win, but he expects so much more out of this group than his previous.

The Cats didn't play particularly well...and they won by 16. That's saying something in my book.

"We pushed it to 25 at one point and we got complacent," Cronin said. "They are going to keep playing. We just got too complacent when we got the lead."

With a 25-point lead the team let up a little. Should it happen? No. Can you understand it? Sure.

I'm not being a UC apologist here, I'm merely pointing out the human nature element. I certainly wouldn't walk away from that game thinking this is a team that can't put two halves together against Big East competition. They were too good and do too good a job keeping players fresh to think that way.

--- As will be the case the rest of the season, we'll learn more from the next game. Seton Hall is down as well, but they are better than DePaul. They topped USF (who may be worse than DePaul) last night by nine.

Even without Jeremy Hazell, Herb Pope leads a talented group. It's again a game UC should be favored in, but expecting to pull off another double-digit win might be asking a bit much.

I'd unoffically handicap the line at 8 in my book.

--- Great quote from Mick Cronin on the state of his team: 

"I feel like the sky is the limit for this team. If we'll do two things, stay unselfish and care about winning only and get good at the little things, the intangibles that are going to make us win. And, two, we have got to get tougher because the Big East is a physical battle royal and we didn't display any toughness in the second half on the defensive backboard."

 

--- By the way, the mathematical genius musings of Ken Pomeroy had UC as a 77-58 favorite entering the DePaul game. The final was 76-60. Not bad.

 

--- Darnell Wilks played a strong game. Wilks, Larry Davis and Sean Kilpatrick came off the bench and were the reason for the Bearcats first half run. The first team, particularly Dion Dixon and Cashmere Wright "were too laid back," according to Cronin. That certainly wasn't the case for the reserves, who injected life into the team.

Wilks didn't play well against St. Francis and Cronin said he sat down with Wilks between games.

"We had some heart to hearts on being positive and just playing hard and not getting down on yourself," Cronin said. "He has a tendency to get down on himself. Worry about getting open 3-point shots instead of using his athleticism, tonight he used his athleticism. He was really aggressive, he had three great offensive rebounds."

He finished with 11 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals.

--- Holy Spidey-Tighties is Larry Davis playing great basketball.

Davis brought in-your-face defense off the bench and continued to shoot the lights out from 3-point range. He had 20 points in 23 minutes, was 4 of 6 from 3-point and perfect 4 of 4 from the foul line.

The rest of the Bearcats were 0 for 9 from 3-point, by the way.  

But Davis was stomping all over the floor, screaming at the top of his lungs and giving high fives to folks in the courtside seats.

I'll be the first to admit I was critical of Davis in the past, but I'll also be the first to admit I was wrong about him this year. He's done everything right to this point.

Last season, he hit 20 of 82 3-pointers for a 24-percent clip.

This year, he's knocked down 16 of 33 at a 48-percent clip.

Davis credited the improvement to extra time spent working on his mechanics in the gym.

"I think I wasn't getting enough arch on my shot," Davis said. "Think I am getting some arch on my shot so its starting to fall." 

He's knocked down 8 of 13 3-pointers in his last two games. But that's only been half his story. Yancy Gates admitted the energy Davis brings to the floor along with Wilks has been immeasurable.

"Darnell and Larry, they play with so much energy, especially when they are pressing you have no choice but to feed off of it," Gates said. "Their energy traveled over to the rest of us."

--- UC only turned the ball over twice in the second half despite DePaul continuing to press the entire game. It led to a litany of dunks and layups, including the dunk of the year this season for UC, the Wilks windmill jam.

The guy is just a freakish athlete.

--- Bill Koch and I like to refer to "pertinent stats" after the game. It's more of a joke, but there were definitely some pertinent stats after this one. UC beat DePaul in points off turnovers 29-5. They won fast break points 21-4 and the bench outscored the Demons 33-19.

 --- Official Ed Hightower has the perfect head of hair to cut into a Johnny Gill style high top fade, he's close right now, but he just needs to trim it up a little bit.

--- UC 18 of 27 from the free throw line. Not great, not bad. I think that's about what you'll get from this team.

--- Dion Dixon did a great job driving and creating contact on Tuesday. He got to the line 10 times and buried eight. It was all a part of his relatively quiet 16 points.

--- Quote of the night: DePaul coach Oliver Purnell when asked if he thought UC was underrated in the preseason Big East poll at No.12:

"I just don't understand how they would be picked like that if you look at their personnel and they did some things late last year in the Big East tournament."

When informed the coaches actually made the selections to slot them there, well he could only laugh....

"Oh, well that explains it. We looked at it and said, sheesh, send to the back and we went recruiting."

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