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February 28, 2011.
Write it down.
Make a note of it.
Tell your grandkids you were there.
Because on February 28, 2011, we saw the result of almost two seasons' worth of work by Coach Jamelle Elliott. We saw the Bearcats reach a goal they've been working toward, since Coach Elliott arrived in Clifton. We saw the UC women's team defeat a ranked team for the first time in the Elliott Era.
Oh, yes, the 'Cats had come close before, but the 65-62 win Monday night over #20 Marquette was the first time that it actually had happened. And it was only fitting that on Senior Night, the two seniors, Shereese Ulis and Shelly Bellman, led the way, Shereese with her three-point shooting and Shelly with her cool-as-a-cucumber conversion of two free throws in the final seconds to ice the game for UC.
It's a bit ironic that on the night we saw the end to the home season, we also saw the beginning of a new era for the 'Cats. Because the game, this win, was not just a result of hard work in one game, it was the result of hard work over the season.
Now it's on to the BIG EAST Tournament, and anyone can tell you that anything can happen there. Shelly said Coach Elliott told the players to pack for the week, not just one or two games. Coach Elliott feels at home back in Hartford, and her team exceeded expectations there last season.
So write down the date: Monday, February 28, 2011. I hope you can say that you were there when you saw the future of Bearcat basketball. And the future's gonna be fun.
Wow, where did the season go? Seems like it was just last week when we were watching UC and NKU in a tough exhibition contest, and now we're closing the home schedule Monday night.
The end of the home season also means that we say goodbye to the team's seniors, Shareese Ulis and Shelly Bellman. These two have experienced just about everything during their time in the program, and while on Senior Night we honor their accomplishments by rattling off their career stats and highlights, these players are much more than the numbers they've amassed.
Shareese has been in Clifton only two seasons but in that time has certainly made an impact. Playing on what Coach Jamelle Elliott calls "70 year old knees," Shareese has fought through surgeries and chronic pain to play just about every minute of every game she's been here. Along the way she, more often than not, is the leading scorer in Bearcat games and has an impressive three-point percentage to boot. She has overcome more than her share to be a Bearcat, and she'll graduate this spring to what she hopes will be a career in coaching. She stepped in to be the floor leader that Coach Elliott needed when Coach took over the Bearcat job, and Shareese has proven that the decision was a correct one.
Shelly, on the other hand, is the rarest of players-the sixth year student-athlete. (And yes, rarer still, this is her second senior night.) But her story goes beyond one evening of acknowledgements. Full disclosure here, Shelly was an intern for us at Game Day Communications last year, but I first saw Shelly play as a freshman for the Bearcats. I was immediately impressed with her passion for the game and her hustle on the court. Even as a first-year player she didn't hesitate to get in the huddle and challenge her teammates.
Injuries cut her time on the floor, but at the same time extended her years with the Bearcats. And yes, she thought she was done last season but was granted the sixth year injury exemption because, as she put it, she wanted the chance to play for Coach Elliott, her third head coach in her six seasons here. You couldn't blame her if she had just packed up her things after five years and drove away. Instead, she stayed for another season and, in the process, became a mentor for this tremendous crop of Bearcat freshmen. She shows by example and hard work how to do it the Bearcat way.
So we have one last chance to show these seniors how much we appreciate their contributions to the University of Cincinnati. Whether you're a season ticket holder, a UC alum, a fan, friend or classmate, come out Monday night to Fifth Third Arena and give them the standing ovation they deserve. It's the least we can do to say "Thanks."
This weekend's hint of spring-like weather reminds us that another basketball season is about to close. Only two more home games remain for Jamelle Elliott's second edition, next Tuesday against Syracuse, then the regular season finale February 28 against Marquette. So what have we learned?
One thing is very apparent, the Bearcats have not given up on the season, as difficult as it has been. This team plays with effort right to the very end. Coach Elliot, her staff and the players should be commended for that.
Second thing: The Cats no longer have fresmen on the floor. Yes, I know, academically they're still in their first year of school, but no group of freshmen have had this kind of initiation to the BIG EAST like this group. Experience is a terrific teacher, and when they come back as sophomores, they'll have a season's worth of lessons in the conference that will pay off big down the road.
Third thing: Jamelle Elliott has the plan in place. It will be an attractive proposition for skilled high school players to come into this program and play right away, and play for a proven winner.
So if we could get a do-over for the season, what would you like to see? Well, I'd like to have two more years and two good knees for Shareese Ulis. When Coach Elliott came into the program she needed a point guard desperately, and Shareese has become the coach on the floor.
Speaking of, I'd like to see fewer crutches, fewer bandages and fewer players in street clothes. Injuries decimated this team almost from the start. You'd like to see what Coach Elliott could do with a healthy squad.
And, I'd like to see more fans. Sure, there were big crowds for UConn and Xavier, but there were some great games inbetween. Everyone's enthusiasm picks up with a bigger audience.
So come out for one (or both) of the remaining home games for the Cats. They've worked hard this year against very steep odds. They deserve your support.
Saturday's UC women's basketball game against the University of Connecticut has been circled on a lot of calendars for a long time.
Too bad the timing wasn't better for the Bearcats.
Not that there's ever a great time to face UConn, but the injury bug has bitten the Cats so hard, and so often, that Coach Jamelle Elliott may need to check the record books to see whether she has any leftover eligibility stashed somewhere.
A thin bench has gotten downright gaunt, with the loss last week of Chanel Chisholm, at least for a handful of games, with a sprained ankle. That leaves seven, count 'em, seven, Bearcats able to dress and get out on the floor.
And get them out, Coach Elliott does. While she rotates her starters with a couple of minutes rest during the games, there's only so much of a break they can get, with only two coming off the bench. During Tuesday night's game against Depaul, four freshmen were on the floor for UC for a signifcant amount of time in the second half.
That kind of experience is good down the road, but right now, it's on-the-job training. And their next job is going up against the number two team in the nation. Don't let the UC coaching staff fool you with 'this is just another game.' This game means a lot to Coach Elliott, facing her old coach and old team. They just wish they had a healthier team to take the court.
I know a lot of you will be coming to the game for the chance to see one of the storied programs in women's college basketball in action. Coach Geno Auriemma does a magnificent job in keeping his players hungry for the ball and fighting for every point. But while you're admiring the UConn program, keep an eye on the UC women. They may have half a roster, but they have a full measure of pride in their play, and in their program.
OK, so what's your excuse?
As Jamelle Elliott and the University of Cincinnati women's basketball team dive into the BIG EAST schedule, we're seeing some of the best teams in the country coming through Clifton.
So where are you?
I know there were several games scheduled on Bengals Sundays and, love them or hate them, the Bengals draw big TV crowds in this market. Well, the Bengals season is over.
Maybe you were saying, I'll wait until they get into conference play. Well, that's where they are now. Louisville's already been here, Rutgers was here this past weekend.
So where are you?
You must be a UC fan, or you wouldn't be reading this. So how about showing your fan support by coming to a game?
A former colleague of mine at ESPN, Nell Fortner, now coach at Auburn, once said that she always had mixed feelings when friends asked her for free tickets to college or WNBA games she was coaching. "Sure, I can get them all kinds of free tickets, but how about buying a ticket and supporting these young women and their program?"
Good point: It's one thing to say you support what they do--it's another thing to show up and cheer them on in person. The tickets are affordable, the game times are family friendly and the team could not be more appreciative when you attend. There's always an autograph signing session after the game (find that at a pro game!) and these players are glad to have you there.
The Bearcats will be back home next on Tuesday, January 25 against DePaul. Make a point to mark that on your calendar. And come out to support the Cats.
What's your excuse?
The UC women's basketball team has officially closed the door on the non-conference portion of its schedule as the BIG EAST games loom ahead. And although the 'Cats have one conference game under their belt, last month's contest against Louisville, from now on it's all BIG EAST all the time, starting with this week's road trip to University of South Florida and West Virginia.
So what have we learned about this team?
First of all, they don't give up. Fighting Texas until the last shot at the Maggie Dixon classic in San Diego was a good example. Also, the tough Crosstown Shootout match against then-4th ranked Xavier showed that the Cats will be in it, until the end.
Second, a half season has done Jeanise Randolph and Chanel Chisholm a world of good. Jeanise was a beast under the basket in the Miami game against taller opponents, and staffers on the basketball team told me that Chanel gained a lot of confidence during that San Diego swing. Jeanise could have gotten discouraged early in this season, but instead she's come back stronger than ever. To watch her get the bounce pass underneath and muscle up for a basket is a thing of beauty. She'll only get better.
Third, they truly are a team. It is fun to watch them in the huddle, encouraging each other and congratulating each other on a good play. That kind of team support will pay off down the road in tight games.
So the next time the Cats will be at 5/3 will be Saturday, January 15 against another perennial BIG EAST powerhouse, Rutgers. We'll see how the BIG EAST treats the Cats.
Last week I had the great good fortune to work with Tommy G on the University of Cincinnati women's basketball telecast for the Marshall game. As part of the show, we came up with what we wished that Coach Jamelle Elliott and the Bearcat team would find in their stockings this year. So that got me thinking about our new year's resolutions for the Bearcats. You probably have some of your own, so post them on the Cincinnati women's basketball Facebook page. For now, here are some of my thoughts:
For Jamelle Elliott, a BIG EAST surprise. Last season the Bearcats went on the road and got some big conference wins at Louisville and Syracuse. There'll be a game or two that the 'Cats will sneak up and surprise someone.
For the Bearcat team, a steep learning curve. It's a young edition of the 'Cats this season, with freshmen taking a bigger role than ever. May they be quick studies of the Jamelle Elliott system.
Also for the team, but especially for seniors Shareese Ulis and Shelly Bellman, good health. The injury bug has bitten this team way too often and we hope it's done. Shareese and Shelly, this team depends on your senior leadership and your calmness under pressure. Stay healthy and stay in the lineup.
For sports information director Jeremy Martin, a thousand followers on Facebook. Love the videos, especially the ones with the players after the game. Keep 'em coming.
For director of basketball operations, Dana Rieger, a new whiz bang camera to capture all the action on the court. Oh wait, you already have one of those! How about a big ol' calendar to keep everyone's schedule straight.
For UConn Coach Geno Auriemma, a winning streak that stays intact until you come to Clifton on January 29. Wouldn't that be fun to have the Huskies start a new win streak once they leave town!
And to everyone with the UC athletic department, all the best for a terrific and exciting new year of women's basketball.
While the school year continues, the calendar year is coming to a close--and it's time to look back at the year in the women's Bearcat programs. It's been a successful, building year, with more to come. Some highlights include:
In volleyball, the Bearcats won the BIG EAST regular season title, were nationally ranked and racked up a 30-win season. Senior Stephanie Niemer was conference Player of the Year and was named to the Division 1 All America second team by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. Niemer is the first player in Cincinnati history to earn a selection on the All-America Second Team after finishing the season ranked fourth in the NCAA in kills per set (5.12) and third in points per set (5.93). Another senior, Annie Fesl and sophomore Jordanne Scott were honorable mentions.
The women's soccer team started out its season 5-0-1, including a win on the road over ranked Wisconsin. The team didn't make the BIG EAST tournament, but the young team got some valuable experience. The team also earned the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Team Academic Award.
The lacrosse team will soon be moving into a new home at the Jefferson Avenue Sports Complex, and coach Lellie Swords has 10 top high school players coming in for the fall season. It's a growing program, and a new field will give the Cats terrific home field advantage.
Golf, led by coaching legend Janet Carl, and tennis have wrapped up fall seasons and are getting ready for spring, and it seems as if the track and swimming seasons never have a break. Women's basketball is tuning up for the BIG EAST season, facing some of the toughest competition in the country. All student-athletes represent the University with honor and pride, and it's a lot of fun to see them compete week after week.
So as we look back on the year in women's sports at UC, there is a lot to be proud of, and a lot to look forward to in 2011 and beyond. Congratulations of everything you've accomplished, and best of luck for a successful 2011.
So, didja think the game would be anything else but?
You can toss in any cliche that you want, but we all knew that when UC and Xavier meet, whether it's basketball or tiddly winks, it's going to be a battle.
So it was on Sunday, when the #4 ranked Xavier Musketeers
visited the UC Bearcats for the Women's Crosstown Shootout and came away with a 69-61 win.
First, props to everyone who attended--thanks to all the sponsors and to the youth groups who came, but don't make this your only visit. As Coach Elliott said after the game, it's great to have a big crowd for the Shootout, but make sure you come back for a regular season game.
Second, congrats to both teams. Xavier's impressive and the Musketeers have their eyes on the prize--to go beyond last year's Elite Eight. Having said that, the Bearcats didn't roll over just because one of the top teams in the country was coming into the gym.
Coach Elliott made a pretty telling statement after the game. She said, "In those last eight minutes, I wish everyone could have been in those huddles with us. Because I had nine players looking me in the eye saying 'we believe.' We believe we can play with this team. We believe we can win this game."
And while the payoff didn't come with an upset win, it'll likely come down the road. Just ask Senior Shelly Bellman. "We learned a lot of good lessons in this game," she said. "That'll help us when we get into those games in the BIG EAST."
So another Women's Crosstown Shootout has come and gone. Xavier knows that no matter who the opponent, they're going to have a fight on their hands. And the Bearcats know that they can give that fight to anyone. Just. Believe.
First, let's get to the news of the day: Coach Jamelle Elliott is building her next recruiting class with Talequia Hamilton from Huntington, West Virginia, and Alyesha Livett from Newark, New Jersey. Hamilton's a 6-2 forward who brings much needed height to the front line. Lovett's led her team to a 93-6 record over her three years.
Add them to Dayeesha Hollins, who, you remember, transferred from Michigan and is sitting out this year, and this class is rated #32 in the country, the eighth best in the BIG EAST. Nice additions to the foundation building in Clifton.
Now, to the game this weekend, or should we say THE game this weekend. Xavier and UC, don't have to say anything more in this town. This one should be special, though, because for one thing, it's the first one Coach Elliott will have in her house. And, it'll be her second time around, so she knows the hype and the importance regarding bragging rights in town. Third, we should have a packed house, which always adds to the excitement.
What does one game mean in the grand scheme of things? Well, both coaches will downplay the whole thing, saying it's just one game in the schedule, we're preparing for the conference, blah, blah, blah. Well, I'll say what they won't--if you can make a good impression for the recruits in the Greater Cincinnati area, just think what that means to your recruiting prospects as you try to keep home grown talent here.
Add the fact that Xavier, coming off an Elite Eight season, will come in ranked in the top 5 in the country. The Musketeers know that everywhere they go, teams feel that they can make their season if they can knock off a top ranked team. That goes double for UC.
If you haven't seen UC in the last couple of games, you've missed the transformation of this team from a take-a-shot first, ask questions later, to a patient opportunistic team that will wait for the best shot possible. It's turned the Bearcats into a disciplined, focused team. Which will be what is needed for a shot at XU.
You gotta come to the Women's Crosstown Shootout on Sunday at 2 p.m. That is, if you can get a ticket....