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The Morning After: UC 75, McGill 41

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Not much can be derived from these exhibitions. By the final minutes of the game, it legitimately looked like the Bearcats were playing the LaSalle Lancers. A few McGill players looked like extras from School Ties. (Ask your parents)

Still, after a first half where UC played like it was a regular season Deveroes league contest, they showed up in the second half with the type of emotion and intensity expected out of a Top 25 team.

We learned Yancy Gates can still pick on guys half his size. We learned Cashmere Wright is still the motor that makes the Bearcats go. We learned Dion Dixon can make SportsCenter's Top 10 when Gates tosses him a pass off the backboard.

Outside of that, stay tuned. If you were looking for a big splash from one of the freshmen, you left disappointed. That's what I wrote my postgame column on. Read it here.

If you want to watch the game, I recommend moving forward to the second half -- and here is the link.

If you are looking for the Gates backboard pass to Dixon, jump ahead to the 1:32:30 mark.

--- As for some news and notes to come out of the game, there were a few. JuCo transfer Cheikh Mbodj (Pronounced Sheck Mood-g) turned his ankle a second time in practice last week and he had a boot on it Tuesday. It is a sprain and not only will it keep him out for a while, Mick Cronin plans on being extra cautious with his center.

"Cheikh Mbodj will not play until he is 100 percent," he said. "It is a long season. We have a very good team. We have a chance to have a great team especially when he is with us. The last thing I am going to do is bring him back too soon and have him dealing with a bad ankle all season."

Cronin went on to explain, not only will Mbodj need to be cleared by the doctors, he will also need to be cleared by him. He didn't have a specific timetable, but clearly he will not be messing around with his return. This team needs to be ready by the time Big East play begins Jan. 1 at Pittsburgh. Forcing anything prior to that would be irresponsible.

"
When I see him run up and down the floor and not limp and no pain then he will be back," Cronin said. 

--- JaQuon Parker was fouled going up for a layup in the second half and went to the bench with an injury. He didn't return. Mick Cronin said Paker pulled a groin, but that was all he knew. Check back to the blog this week for updates.

--- One of the biggest points of interest entering this game was the defensive play of Sean Kilpatrick and Dion Dixon. Somewhere between those two, they need to exhibit the defensive grit and toughness of Rashad Bishop.

Cronin clearly sounded like he didn't see what he was looking for there on Tuesday -- at least out of SK.

"We got to get our wing guys, especially Sean Kilpatrick, more sound defensively," Cronin said. "That is a big concern of mine."

Bishop brought an element many fans and even "experts" like us media types don't see. Cronin saw, and that's why he called him the best perimeter defender he's ever been around.

"What we lost with a guy like Rashad Bishop, he could play well without ever scoring because three guys would get beat and he could protect them until they recovered and he'd get back to his man," Cronin said. "That happened three times in the same possession last year. For us this year, it's our veterans, Yancy, Dion and Cash, they have to do that. I don't know if SK is ready for that, I am trying to turn Justin into the type of guy and JaQuon Parker."

For Dixon, the 20 points and 7 of 10 from the field make for nice numbers, but they don't define how he plays. He needs to have games where he affects the game but doesn't fill up the offensive stat sheet. That's the next level for him. 

"Scramble," Cronin said. "Don't just sit out there and think you got to have 20 to have a good night. He is going to get many nights with 20 anyway. He's got to affect the game in other ways to be a great player. He is from Chicago, he loves Dwyane Wade, Dwyane Wade has a lot of nights when he affects games with his defense."

--- The free throw shooting numbers that fans love to complain about weren't great last night, UC went 15 of 25. However, the three players that will be doing the majority of the free-throw shooting this year -- Gates, Wright and Dixon -- combined to drain 12 of 13.

Cronin said Wright and Dixon in particular have been incredible this preseason with their free throws. It's getting to the point where Cronin can start calling for Dixon to bait contact in the one-and-one situation to grab two easy points. 

He estimated in all the preseason free throw situations in the past month, Dixon and Wright combined to miss maybe four or five total. 

--- The backboard dunk by Dixon was a pass he called for, according to Gates. 

"I heard somebody go 'Backboard,'" Gates said. "We was winning, I looked and I know Dion can jump, we were winning, so I figured Cronin wouldn't get too mad."

Though, I'm not sure what was more amusing about that play and the breakaway dunk prior, the actual dunks or the complete disinterest from the McGill players in running back on defense.

--- Season tally of times Party Rock Anthem is played: 3.

--- Stat of the game: In the first half UC had but four assists. In the second half they had 12. Defense turned into offense and ball movement, a staple of last year's Bearcats. That all began with Wright, who had all four of his steals and four of his five assists after halftime.

"It took a little just to adjust, work out all the kinks in the offense and get the defense down pat," Wright said. "We just got loose and got a feel for the game, we got a feel for each other and were just out there playing better."

--- Gates seemed downright angry late in the game during a media timeout, but nobody knew why. When he was asked about it after the game, he delivered the quote of the night and an early favorite for quote of the year.

"We are up 30, this dude is walking up the court elbowing my ribs," Gates said. "I am like, 'Man, we are up 30, can you move your elbow til I get the ball?'"

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