The Morning After: UC 81, PC 66

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With a late night last night which produced this column on the game and an afternoon media session today speaking with Mick Cronin and his players -- plus a Butch Jones press conference and introduction of new volleyball coach Molly Alvey -- I'll keep this short and sweet with plenty yet to come on the blog.

I mainly want to talk about the play of the bench. I mentioned in yesterday's Breakfast entering the game if they didn't trip double-figures in their output the Bearcats would be in trouble. That would have been the case. If not for the 19 points (in 36 minutes) off the bench -- tied for third-most in Big East play for UC -- it probably would have been curtains.

Instead, Jeremiah Davis III sparked a 7-0 run to close the half and the 16-point halftime deficit proved too much to overcome.

"I've got great confidence in those guys," Mick Cronin said."They are the future of our program. Those guys all gave us quality minutes."

Cronin touted winning the battle of attrition with his depth at guard and it played out to the blueprint. The Friars not only received zero points from their bench, but 53 of their 66 points came from two players. After charging back to within seven at the four-minute mark, the fatigue of Vincent Council and LaDontae Henton showed up.

Meanwhile, when UC brought in reserves -- particularly in the first half -- the production never dipped.

The reserves would have played more minutes if not for the coach's decision to play a more defensive lineup down the stretch while protecting the lead and stick with veterans while withstanding the wild Providence charge.

--- The rotation appears to be carving
itself out into a regular routine. While there was some alterations and adjustments occurring during the last few months, Cronin appears to have settled into about a 8-10 man rotation with the majority of the minutes falling to eight guys.

The starters are going to be Cash, SK, Dion, Parker and Yancy.

Justin Jackson provides instant energy as the first off the bench and will play more minutes against a team utilizing a zone to stop UC. The work he does in the high-low against the zone is superior to any other offensive set Cronin can draw up. He's improved dramatically at knowing when to make the pass inside and when to take the layup. He's far from a finished product in that area, but he's come a long way.

Ge'Lawn Guyn will be play double-digit minutes most nights because Cronin needs to keep Cash's legs defensively for the final 5-10 minutes of the game. He's seen the junior's defense suffer too many times when playing extra minutes and Guyn is the guy to fix that. Cronin said Wednesday he would like to see Guyn trust his outside shot more, but likes the output he recieved. Four points, two rebounds and an assist in 12 minutes isn't a terrible night.

Davis III has become the instant offense guy. He's brought in and told to fire when ready. He gave the needed spark Wednesday night. He's now hitting 39 percent from deep -- although it had been a while since he knocked one down. He won't play huge minutes, but when the offense is struggling, he'll be injected.

Cheikh Mbodj gives Yancy the quick spell and can help out defensively with his shot-blocking ability and Jermaine Sanders occasionally will play minutes when the team needs better passing on the floor.

Barring injury or dramatic matchup concerns, that will be what to expect each of the next five games and into the postseason. The roles are now in clearer focus than ever before.

--- Here is Yancy/SK talking after the game last night. Also, here is video of Mick's postgame presser. Both are pretty short, it was late. Us media folk were up well past our bedtime.

--- UC only the
second team in the last eight games to beat Providence by double-digit points. The Friars previous four games were decided by a total of 12 points.

--- Wednesday was the
best rebounding game for the Bearcats this season. They are rebounding 35.7 percent of their misses in conference play, but last night grabbed 18 of 34 for 53 percent.

Yes, Providence is 14th in the conference in allowing other teams on the offensive glass, but this was far beyond the 38.7 percent they were allowing in Big East play.

"That was the difference in the game," Cronin said.

--- Another nice night for Yancy Gates (16-9).
He's now gone nine consecutive games with double-digit points and in seven of those he's grabbed at least nine boards. Guy has done a great job embracing his role as the rebounder/cleanup/finisher on the interior.

--- Stat of the night: UC's can be thankful Providence sharpshooter Bryce Cotton had an off night. He entered sixth in the conference in 3-point percentage at 41 percent. He missed all six from downtown and didn't score a point. One of those missed came down eight with under four minutes to go when he was wide open from the wing.

"He's still open he was so open," Friars coach Ed Cooley said. "In the Big East you have to make that shot."

--- Quote of the night: Mick Cronin on watching the scoreboard too much against Marquette and again versus Providence:

"Before (Providence) made the run I told guys you got to quit looking at the scoreboard and just play. That was our problem against Marquette. We are worried about blowing a 12-point lead, it doesn't matter. People say, 'You are up 12.' Well, so what? I averaged 30 a game in eighth grade. Nobody cares. I am the same height, same weight and no hair now. It doesn't matter. You got to show toughness and keep playing."

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