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The Morning After: UC 66, XU 46

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When the Bearcats signed Yancy Gates out of Withrow, at some point, you felt he would dominate a Crosstown Shootout.

You just didn't expect this is how he would do it.

Ripping away rebounds, slamming in putbacks and blocking shots, yeah, that makes sense.

But 17-foot fadeaways? On repeat?

"In practice we play around; I'll hit a shot and laugh and tell them I'm hot," Gates said. "I think that one was one of those shots where I really was. I just wasn't playing around."

Oh no, Gates wasn't playing around Thursday. In all, a season-high 22 points and 14 rebounds.

Although, as he ran past press row following his jumper that left him almost in the lap of the Hit King, Pete Rose Jr., Nick Lachey and Vanessa Minnillo (I know where I'm landing), he couldn't help but slip a smile and half laugh as he ran back down the court.

I'm not sure when Gates became Michael Jordan, but I expected him to give a shrug with his palms up to Dan Hoard after the last one.

He said he messes around in practice attempting those shots.

"Not in my sight," Mick Cronin said. "He practices those out of my vision."

If Gates can provide that type of consistency on offense -- not necessarily 22 and 14 every night, but the ferocious, not-to-be-denied attitude in the paint -- this team has national legs.

"It's obvious Yancy Gates decided it was time to win a Crosstown Shootout," Cronin said. "When he plays like that, two things got to happen. No. 1, I got to point out to him let's try to do that again on Sunday. No. 2, we got to get the ball when he decides to try to dominate the paint on offense. The more we got him the ball, the more we got seperation."

--- Of course, I'm not the only one to write about Yancy Gates. Mo Egger put together a great blog. Paul Daugherty wrote a column about Gates within the concept of how good this team can be. Joe Kay's AP story centered around the Cincinnati kid.

--- Here's highlights of last night's game and the postgame interview room with Gates, Cash Wright and Larry Davis.  

--- Say what you will about the schedule, against two Big East teams and a top-tier A-10 crosstown rival, UC won every game by at least 16 points.

--- I wrote a story about the lasting power of this defense. UC ranks in the top 20 in three different KenPom defensive stats -- 2-point FG percentage defense (41.1%, 16th), 3-pt FG percentage (28.4%, 18th) and steal percentage (13.2%, 18th).

More fun with KenPom!

UC is also ranked 10th in the country in offensive rebound percentage and 10th in adjusted overall defense. They are 17th in offensive TO percentage at just 16.8%.

--- Dan Hoard wrote about Cronin issuing a challenge to the fans on the postgame radio show.

Without a doubt, Fifth Third Arena was as raucous as it's been since Cronin took over. It made a signifiicant difference for the players.

"I think we need more of that," Larry Davis said. "I think the fans need to come out and support us. It gives us motivation. It helped me on defense. When I hear the fans yelling and everything I get hyper, not want to let the opponent score."

This was the first home game Cashmere Wright experienced as a sell out.

"I love it. That was one of the best things since I have been here and been a part of," Wright said. "To hear the crowd behind you every play you make every situation they make noise. It kind of helped us out and gave us extra push when we were doing things."

The way the Bearcats played at home, they look tough to beat, especially with the extra lift from a home crowd. The way the schedule breaks down with so many of the winnable Big East games at home, you could make an argument that the Bearcats could never win a game away from Fifth Third in Big East play and still make the tournament.

That would make them 22-9, 9-9. Steal one or two on the road and they won't even need a sweat towel on Selection Sunday.

Cronin knows it and his postgame plea for fan support spoke to the difference the fan base could make down the stretch.

"The truth of it is home-court advantage does make a huge difference in college basketball. It's a huge advantage. Our goal, I don't know if you noticed our schedule we play five teams on the road in the Big East ranked in the top 14 in the country. We need to win all our home games, we got 7 left, we need to go 7-0 at home. We need to sell those out and people need to come to the games.

"For years people been talking about us getting better, we've gotten better for four straight years. Now we're even better. We need support. We get that kind of crowd, we sell that place out and get that every night, we got a good chance of going 7-0 at home. It matters. I only look at it for winning purposes. It's nice for our kids, they deserve that, but it matters in college basketball. You would have to play in front of that crowd and you are the road team, it matters. No doubt about it.

"My message to our fans is: You want us to win? Help us. We got an undefeated team, we play another home game next Wednesday night, I know it's not against Xavier, but we need to sell the game out and have the same enthusiasm for our team. That will help us win the game."   

--- Cronin asked and the marketing department responded. You can buy $20 tickets to the USF and Rutgers games now. Just follow this link and use the password TWENTY.  

--- Despite the atmosphere and rivalry, the fact UC treated this like just another game was the biggest reason it ended up just like the previous 14 this season, Chad Brendel writes.

--- Even some of the harshest critics are beginning to rethink their stance after last night: Gary Parrish.

--- Rush The Court gives some credit, but realizes UC still has plenty to prove.

--- Yancy Gates is Jeff Goodman's stud of the night.   

--- FoxSports.com's Rick Bozich talks about the fact UC doesn't feel it has accomplished much yet being a good sign for this team going forward.

--- Matt Norlander writes about the Bearcats and says he's starting to warm up to them. He perfectly proves the point I've been saying since Georgia Southern: critics of this team are only people that haven't watched them play. This team passes the eye test with flying colors. All the Jerry Palm number-crunchers are going to spit out RPIs and SOSs, but anybody who watches how a team plays basketball knows this team plays extremely well no matter the opponent.

This from Norlander: "Not all 14-0 records are created equal and the one belonging to Cincinnati struck me as being decidedly fraudulent.

But then I watched the Bearcats' 66-46 dismantling of Xavier up close and personal and my initial skepticism seemed misplaced.  At least for one night, Cincinnati looked to have all the makings of a contender in the Big East and worthy of its recent placement in the Top 25."

Translation: When I looked at their schedule, I thought they were frauds, when I actually watched a game, I realized they are pretty darn good."

This is not a knock on Norlander, but he represents a significant segment of national media.  

--- 15-0. The first time since 1998-99 and third time in program history.

--- I asked for the white throwbacks in the Shootout Breakfast and received them Thursday night. In the words of Slick Rick, the Bearcats were "fresh, dressed like a million bucks."

Now 3-0 this season in throwbacks, including a 34-point win against Dayton and 20-point win against Xavier. They won't become the common jersey, because the guys still like the current threads, but there's something to be said for the old-school charm.

"They got the skinny straps," Gates said to a laugh. "The other ones you are always tugging on. They feel like basketball jerseys in stead of all this new stuff they come out with."

--- Larry Davis said the jerseys give you extra movement in the shoulders. He was partially joking, but whatever's going on in his shoulders he doesn't need to change.

He dropped 2 of 4 3-pointers on Thursday to move his season total to 19 of 39 from deep. That's good for 48.7 percent.

The UC record for 3-pt FG percentage in a season is 47.6 by Roger McClendon in 1987.

--- Sidenote: I'd like to point out that LaZelle Durden shot 339 3-pointers in the 1994-95 season. The second-most in UC history was 248 by Nick Van Exel in 1992-93. UC's entire team has only shoot 274 3-pointers this season. Incredible.

--- The next five games in a 16-day span:

@ No. 7 Villanova: The Wildcats have won 44 straight at home

vs. USF: UC will be heavily favored, though the Bulls took UConn to OT in Storrs.

@ No. 4 Syracuse: One of seven undefeated teams in the country with wins over Michigan State and Notre Dame at the Carrier Dome.

@ No. 15 Notre Dame: All they've done is beat UConn, Georgetown, Gonzaga, Georgia and Wisconsin to only two losses.

@ St. John's: The Johnnies will be ranked. They are 3-0 in Big East with wins @WVU, @ Providence and vs. Georgetown.

--- Coming away from these five games with two wins would be nice, three wins would be great, any more than that would be reason start looking up Sweet 16/Elite8/Final 4 sites.  

---  Quote of the night: Mick Cronin, joking, on how UC uncharacteristically knocked down 15 of 16 from the free throw line:

"I personally took over free throw shooting duties for this game. It starts at the top." 

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