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Remember December 27, 1997

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West Virginia is missing its leading scorer and only has eight scholarship players available.

 

Cincinnati has nine players who have appeared in every game, and the Bearcats are playing at home where they have won 13 straight.

 

On paper, it's a game that UC should win and Cincinnati is listed as a 3-point favorite.

 

But do you know why I'm nervous about the outcome? 

 

December 27, 1997.

 

All you need to know about Bob Huggins' ability to coach a team that has no business winning to victory can be found on that date when he led UC to a 74-66 overtime win over UMass in the Rock 'n Roll Shootout in Cleveland.

 

It might be the most unlikely win in Bearcat history.

 

Cincinnati went into the game with three suspended starters:  Kenyon Martin, Ruben Patterson, and D'Juan Baker.  One of best available Bearcats - Melvin Levett - went 1-for-13 from the floor that night and didn't make a field goal until overtime.

 

For UC to win under those circumstances, Bobby Brannen needed to have a huge game and he did, scoring a career-high 32 points.  But the remarkable thing about the victory was how Huggs managed to get big contributions from players who did not have great careers.

 

Seldom-used guard Shawn Myrick had 17 points and 8 rebounds.  Football players Brent Petrus and Brad Jackson traveled cross-country from the Humanitarian Bowl to join the fight and played key roles.  Petrus played 34 minutes and had 6 points and 5 rebounds, and Jackson managed to play 13 minutes while only committing one foul. 

 

Cincinnati won an overtime game with seven available players and two were on football scholarships.

 

I'm not saying that Coach Huggins will do it again tonight - in fact, I think the Bearcats are going to pull out a tough, physical, low-scoring game.

 

But as Rick Pitino put it after Louisville rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit at home to beat a short-handed West Virginia team 55-54 on Wednesday:

 

"Bob Huggins can coach seven guys named Harry and be competitive."

 

I'd love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com

 

If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

 

And I have finally joined Facebook.  Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.

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