League Tourney follows Senior Night success

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They couldn't have capped their careers at Fifth Third Arena in better fashion. 


Senior guards Shareese Ulis and Shelly Bellman put a halt to the school-record 13-game losing streak. Bellman provided the offense in the waning moments of the contest, while Ulis came up with a steal and blocked shot on the last two possessions.


With Ulis stroking 20 points including a career-best six 3-pointers, the Bearcats scored 60 points for the first time since December 30, 20010, a span of 16 games.


"I've been feeling good lately," Ulis said. "I knew I was going to get shots it was just a matter of focusing and making them. They left me open quite a bit."


This performance came against No. 20 Marquette, the No. 5 seed in the upcoming conference tournament, making it even more significant.


In their previous three-home games the Bearcats dropped two-single digit contests and fell to Providence after a first-half lead. Monday marked UC's first league win at home this season.   


"I think it's just not being satisfied with a situation," Ulis said. "We know that we came out and lost a lot of tough games. We didn't give up. We continued to fight every day in practice. We continued to get better at the things we do wrong in our games."


Sixth-year guard Bellman battled through a torn anterior cruciate ligament and a torn patella tendon to suit up this season. The veteran was questionable for this game after hurting her shoulder and missing the previous game against Notre Dame.


"How fun was it for Shell Bellman to be on the floor?" head coach Jamelle Elliott said. "Before the shoot around today, we didn't know if she was going to play."


Ulis started every game in a Bearcat uniform and averaged a career 12.6 points per game during Elliott's inaugural two years with the program.


"As leaders and obviously as players," Elliott said. "They bring a lot to the table. [Ulis] especially has made my first two years as a coach a lot easier. Just by having her on the floor, having her in the locker room."


Following a memorable night for the two veterans is the next order of business, the Big East Championship.


"We have a lot of momentum right now," guard Bjonee Reaves said. "We're going to take that momentum going into the Big East Tournament and pack like we're staying [until] Tuesday. Pack a lot; we're going in thinking we are going to win. We never have gone into a game thinking we're going to lose."  


UC will enter as the No. 15 seed and will play No. 10 seed West Virginia Saturday at 6 p.m. in Hartford, Conn., at the XL Center.


In the last two tournaments UC has advanced to second round including as a 14 seed last year. In both wins UC scored more than 60 points while holding opponents in the 50s.  


"One game at a time, one game at a time," Elliott said. "Obviously we're going into the Big East Tournament on a high. We just beat a top-20 team. I think if nothing else we're going into the tournament believing that no matter [whom] we play against we should be able to compete. I'm not going to do anything different."


For Bellman and Ulis it's one and done. Their careers will come to end with the next UC loss.


"The only difference know is the next time [our seniors] lose, they're not going to put on a Cincinnati Bearcat uniform anymore," Elliott said. "I'm going to use that as a motivator for our players that are going to be here next year. Let them know that they need to leave it all out on the court. If not for you, but for the two guys that have given their heart and soul for this program."


The Mountaineers enter the postseason as a double-digit seed despite a No. 22 ranking. In the latest ESPN.com Bracketology 10 Big East teams are projected to make the NCAA tournament including West Virginia. 


WVU throttled UC on Jan. 8 at Morgantown, in their last meeting 72-44. It held UC to less than 20 percent shooting and blocked 17 shots. The Mountaineers are limiting teams to 52.4 points per game, the second lowest point total in the league. 


"It's hard in this conference," Elliott said. "This conference is a monster. It's even more of a monster when you're at the bottom trying to fight your way up. You just crawl and you crawl and you're trying to make [up] ground."


Ulis is averaging a career 13.5 points a game in the Big East Championship. If the Bearcats can shoot the ball consistently, they have a chance of making some noise.  


"That's the good thing about March - anything can happen," Elliott said.


No. 7 St. John's awaits the Cats if they can pull off a round-one upset.


"Once that ball goes up and it's time to play, we'll see," Elliott said.   




--- Freshman Kayla Cook was named the Big East Rookie of the Week on Tuesday following a career-high 18 against Notre Dame and averaged 12 points in the last three games. Cook hit all four of her shots in a 13-point effort last Tuesday.

---Bellman earned the Big East Sportsmanship Award Thursday. Bellman started 23 games this year after missing two seasons due to knee surgeries. The senior is the first Bearcat to be recognized with this achievement. This comes six years after being named to the Big East All-Freshman team.

---Guard Kayla Cook and forward Jeanise Randolph were recognized this season with Big East All-Freshman team honors. Cook started every game this season while averaging 8.2 points, second best on the team. Randolph contributed 6.8 points a game and 6.3 rebounds a game in conference action. This is the first time UC has had a pair of players named to the first-year conference team.   



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