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In This Case, The Cliché Rings True

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It's my fault.  I'm the coach so I've got to get these guys ready to play.  I went off in practice yesterday because I knew they weren't ready.  We were too laissez-faire and had too lax of an attitude.  As soon as you think that guys know how hard they have to compete, they come out like this today.  I failed because I did everything I could to try to send the message that we were in for a war.

--Mick Cronin following Sunday's 67-59 loss to Connecticut.

 

I'll be honest with you.  Normally when a player or coach says "we didn't play hard enough" or "we didn't want it enough" in a post-game interview, I don't put too much stock in it.

 

For one thing, that's what the players almost always say - especially when they are in high school or college.  At that age, they often aren't capable of articulating why they failed in the immediate aftermath of a loss.

 

Additionally, if you think back to your own athletic career (which takes a really good memory in my case), when you lost it probably wasn't because you lacked desire, it was because the other guy - or girl - was either more talented or simply performed better than you did.

 

But I think Coach Cronin's comments were on the mark after the UConn loss because the mistakes that cost Cincinnati the game showed a lack of physical and mental toughness.

 

Let's start with the Bearcats' 17 turnovers.  It's not like they came against a team that forced them with a frenetic full-court press.  UC's big men were responsible for nine of the turnovers as they frequently allowed smaller and scrappier Connecticut players to slap the ball out of their hands.

 

"Our turnovers were ridiculous," Cronin said.  "We had at least eight turnovers that came three feet from the basket.  You can't win that way.  You've got to go up and score or get fouled.  We did a horrendous job offensively in this game.  Their slap-downs killed us.  We had the ball point-blank in front of the rim where they took the ball away from us."

 

Cincinnati's guards committed the other eight turnovers, and the quartet of Cashmere Wright, Larry Davis, Dion Dixon, and Sean Kilpatrick shot a combined 8-for-27 (30%) from the floor and 2-for-12 (17%) from outside the arc.

 

"Our guard play was as bad as I've ever seen," Coach Cronin said.  "You cannot win when your guards were as bad as our guards were today and I told them in the locker room that I was going to say it out here because there is no excuse for it.  That's how they were in practice and you're not going to win that way.  You can talk X's and O's all you want - UConn's guards totally outplayed our guards."

 

Certainly Connecticut deserves some credit.  Especially when you consider that a team that entered the game ranked 12th in the Big East in three-point shooting at 34% was able to knock down 10-of-19 shots (53%) from outside the arc.  But even that was partly due to sloppy play on defense.    

 

"We left guys for no reason," Coach Cronin told me.  "Our game plan was to pressure their freshman and they hit eight threes.  Their freshmen were on the road and we were supposed to be getting into those guys.  We just didn't do it."

 

With the loss, Cincinnati fell to 22-7 overall, 9-7 in the Big East, and into a five-way tie for 7th place in the league standings.  The Bearcats final two regular season games are at Marquette on Wednesday and at home against Georgetown on Saturday.  The Hoyas will not have injured point guard Chris Wright, but will have a full week to prepare.

 

Each of those games will be tough to win - and "tough" is exactly what the Bearcats need to be.

 

"We've got some guys that didn't display a whole lot of toughness today which is why I'm so upset," Coach Cronin said.  "There has to be a point where you go forward as a group and seize the moment.  As a college coach, it's part of your job to get your guys to show up every day.  You can't take days off.  We're obviously not there yet."

 

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've finally joined Facebook.  Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.

 

Hope to see you at the Mick Cronin radio show on Monday night from 8-9 pm at the Original Montgomery Inn. 

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