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UC-Louisville LIVE blog

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Live from the basement (the wife kicked me downstairs):

It's Louisville 18-10 with 11:36 to go as we start it off.

Threes, threes and more threes. I haven't seen the Bearcats hit one yet. Finally, Darnell Wilks gets one.

Louisville, meanwhile, is hitting its long-distance shots, making 62 percent of them.

You don't see the "carry" called all that often. But Lance Stephenson just got whistled for one.

I'm enjoying Mick Cronin's cuff links tonight. I need to get some more French cuff shirts.

Darnell Wilks has eight points to lead UC.

Louisville 31, UC 21

That was a nice job of Samardo Samuels of taking Yancy Gates to the basket.

Louisville 35, UC 25 (3:38 to go)

Anthony McClain in the game. He misses a layup.

I have been pretty impressed, though, with the way that Ibrahima Thomas has played so far in the Big East Tournament.

Darnell Wilks with eight points and Thomas with six. But UC is shooting a ridiculous 27 percent from the field and 30 percent from the 3.

Well, do you see UC making a comeback in this game? Not sure that I do.

Louisville 41, UC 32 (half)

Impressive that UC had 18 offensive rebounds in the first half. Of course, the Bearcats missed a ton of shots.

Edgar Sosa is not a bad player.

Flops in the paint and plenty of offensive fouls called on both teams.

Vaughn hits a 3 that cuts the lead to six. Welcome to the game Mr. 1-for-6-in-the-first-half.

A big Gates dunk cuts the lead to five and forces a Cardinals timeout for the second time this half.

Louisville 46, UC 41 (15:09 to go)

Bearcats go on a 13-0 run to draw to 46-45. Then Lance Stephenson ties with 47-47 with 13 minutes to go.

Gates and Thomas with three fouls now.

Louisville 49, UC 47 (11:15 to go)

Stephenson with a nice drive and a runner and then a nice pass to Darnell Wilks for the dunk and the foul to tie the game 51-51. He misses the free throw, but Parker rebounds a Stephenson miss as UC takes its first lead of the game.

Then Wright with the drive, the foul and the layup. He missed the foul shot and Parker with another offensive rebound. Wright then makes an absolutely ludicrous pass.

Unreal that UC is leading this game.

UC 55, Louisville 53 (7:52 to go)

ESPN tells me UC is on a 26-7 run to make it 57-53.

Yet another offensive rebound for Parker, who gets fouled while making the layup. His free throw makes it a seven-point lead.

And now UC is back to airballing 3-pointers, and Sosa hits a 3 to make it a two-point lead.

I'm not sure Cashmere Wright wants to be bumping chests and talking trash with Edgar Sosa.

Wilks with nice defense on Samuels.

Sosa, BTW, has a season-high 26 points.

And another offensive rebound by Parker. That's four big ones late in the game. Unreal.

UC has 28 offensive rebounds.

Deonta Vaughn enters the game and turns it over, which leads to a breakaway dunk by Sosa. Free throw upcoming.

UC 64, Louisville 63 (1:45 to go)

Sosa's free throw is no good. UC still up one.

Deonta Vaughn is not in the game anymore.

Cashmere Wright will take two FTs. He misses it. Parker also missed one earlier.

UC calls a timeout to put in Vaughn. Guess Mick wants Vaughn to take some free throws. Nope, Stephenson will take. He has two with UC leading 65-63. He makes both for the four point lead with 29 seconds to go.

Sosa misses the 3, Stephenson with the rebound and he's fouled. He misses both FTs.

Delk hits a 3 with 9.7 seconds to go

UC 67, Louisville 66 (0:09 to go)

UC inbounds to Vaughn, and nobody fouls him. It takes like 4 seconds before anybody can get to him. He makes both.

UC 69, Louisville 66 (0:05 to go)

And Vaughn strips Sosa as he's about to take a last-second 3-pointer. Nice final 5 seconds by Vaughn.

UC finishes with a ridiculous 28 offensive rebounds. Gates records with 16 points. Stephenson and Wilks finish with 12 points and Vaughn has 10.

UC 69, Louisville 66 (final)

UC-Rutgers blog

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Live from the couch:

By now you probably know that Mo Egger has reported junior guard Rashad Bishop has been suspended for the entire Big East tournament due to a team violation. As Mo writes on his Twitter account, "So next year's most counted on senior potentially goes into the offseason coming off a suspension." Pretty much.

Waiting for this bad boy to start.

UC offensive rebounding earlier. And, as Marvin Lewis would say, that's a good thing.

Ndiaye blocks Yancy Gates and forces the 35-second clock violation.

UC 5, Rutgers 5 (15:40 to go)

Yesterday, Ibrahima Thomas said Ndiaye had never blocked one of his shots. Well, it just happened. Ndiaye has four blocks so far.

UC goes more than 6 minutes without a field goal until Cashmere Wright's runner. The offense is not looking good.

Rutgers 12, UC 10 (10:59 to go)

I think UC might want to cover Mike Rosario from the 3-point line.

From the I bet you didn't think that would happen file: Darnell Wilks with a tough 6-foot runner. Jaquon Parker with the 3 and then Cashmere Wright with the three-point opportunity. For about 45 seconds, UC looks all world.

UC 21, Rutgers 18 (6:49 to go)

Darnell Wilks making an impact so far on the court. That rebound-dunk was nice. He's got nine points so far.

Yancy Gates has missed two layups so far, including an airball.

UC 31, Rutgers 27 (2:45 to go)

Not a good way to end the half. Ndiaye with a dunk ties the game with 32 seconds left in the half. An out of control Cashmere Wright misses an attempted layup. Then, UC fouls with 1.8 seconds to play and Coburn hits a free throw.

Stephenson is 1 of 7 for 2 points. Deonta Vaughn has three points. Wilks leads the way with nine points, and Wright has seven. UC is shooting 36 percent from the floor and 37 percent from the 3. Rutgers is 47 percent and 50 percent, respectively.

Rutgers 32, UC 31 (halftime)

Deonta Vaughn opens the second half with a 3. UC needs him to get going.

Rutgers putting more pressure on UC's offense. So far the Bearcats are handling it OK.

Thomas fouls Jonathan Mitchell as he makes the layup. The free throw ties the game at 41-41 with about 16 minutes to go.

UC 41, Rutgers 41 (15:58 to go)

Amazing how many open shots Rosario is getting.

UC, by the way, is easily out-rebounding the Knights.

Vaughn, after making that early 3, is 0 for 4 from the field this half.

Rutgers 46, UC 43 (11:53 to go)

UC is 5 for 17 from the 3. That's pretty much all you need to say.

I'm still not exactly sure what Larry Davis brings to the team.

Yet, when UC goes away from the 3-pointer, the Bearcats start scoring.

UC 53, Rutgers 52 (7:25 to go)

Lance Stephenson has just taken over this game. And suddenly, UC is up by 5.

UC kind of treading water until Jaquon Parker hits a big 3.

UC 62, Rutgers 54 (3:55 to go)

Now, we will say if UC can salt away this game with FTs. Gates hits 1 of 2 to make it an eight-point lead. Then Parker misses the front end. Vaughn hits two.

Will UC let another win slip away. Rutgers cuts the lead to four with 54 seconds to go. Then, after Parker loses the ball on an in-bounds, Vaughn fouls Mitchell and Mitchell hits two FTs with 30 seconds to go. It's a two-point game.

Larry Davis gets trapped in a corner, and his pass is knocked out of bounds. Mick has to call a timeout. Parker, a freshman who doesn't play very much, is supposed to inbound the ball. He can't. He calls timeout, UC's last.

UC runs four seconds off the clock before Vaughn has to go to the foul line. He misses the first. He buries the second, a 3-point lead.

Heck of a 3-point shot by Rosario over Davis to tie the game with 15 seconds to go. Then, Stephenson drives to the bucket and is fouled with 1.8 seconds to go. He's got two foul shots. He makes the first. He purposefully misses the second, and Rosario had a chance from 3/4 court, but he misses.

The rebounding margin obviously was huge for UC. Bearcats end up owning the glass 44-27. 

Stephenson records 13 points and nine rebounds. Parker also has 13.

Onto Louisville in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

UC 69, Rutgers 68 (final)

UC-Rutgers preview

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Some interesting comments emerged from the basketball team's Big East tournament news conference on Monday, and none of them had much to do with the opponent the Bearcats will face tonight at 9 p.m. at Madison Square Garden in the first round.


First, Rufus over at Fox 19 asked Mick Cronin about Mike Thomas saying Cronin would be back to coach UC next year. Rufus asked about negative recruiting, which Cronin basically glossed over, but Cronin did respond to Thomas' public declaration of support.


"Mike always has been supportive of me," Cronin said. "When we started, we've always been on the same page with how hard it was going to be. That being said, I need to deliver. The only thing I'd like to say is just because you hear me say we lost a close game or this or that, nobody wants to deliver more than me. We've made progress, but we're not over the hill. Mike and I are trying to get the program back to the NCAA tournament and back among the top-25."


There are those that complain that Cronin never seems to take responsibility for his mistakes or shortcomings, and sometimes, that criticism is not hard to dispute. But I thought it was telling that he said, "I need to deliver." Probably won't be enough for Cronin's critics, but there you go.


Then, George over at Channel 5 asked about the criticism that some have given when they say UC's players don't seem to be progressing. Full disclosure, I was asked about this Monday on the Eddie and Tracy radio show, and I said I agreed with that criticism. Here's what Cronin had to say when asked specifically about Yancy Gates. I thought it was a very interesting answer, and depending on whether you love or hate Cronin, you'll either love or hate this answer.


"I don't know how fair that is. Who says he's supposed to be a force? Other guys don't have the expectation levels because they don't have the five (recruiting) stars next to their name. Yancy was not a dominant player at Withrow High School. He averaged seven rebounds a game at 6-foot-9, 270. He's a project. He's got talent, but he's a project. He continues to be one.


"I don't have the magic wand. Coaching a guy is one thing. You can't make somebody something they're not. You can try to develop them, but there's only so much you can do. You can teach a guy his footwork or work with him on free throws, but you can't make a guy something he's not. The problem with Yancy is that people want him to be somebody he's not. He's got to worry about being the best guy Yancy Gates can be.


"As far as playing hard and practice habits and commitment off the floor - dieting and training - they're all learned skills. Yancy is better with his practice habits; he's better with a lot of things. Is he where I want him to be? No. Is he where he wants to be? No. Because of his so-called potential that people have bestowed upon him, it brings stress to his situation. He has to do the best he can do, and I have to live with that. At times, he gives me sophomore effort. There's a difference between sophomore effort and senior effort."


--Ibrahima Thomas was pretty funny in the presser, especially when he was talking about one of his best friends, Rutgers senior center Hamady Ndiaye.


"Our whole lifetime, we've been together," Thomas said. "Even when we came to the States, we went to the same high school. It's a little tough (to play against him). It's the first time ever we played against each other. Even on the playground, we never played against each other. We were always on the same team."


Thomas also admitted Ndiaye is a pretty good trash talker. He called Thomas at 5 a.m. the day the tournament bracket was announced and then later sent him some text messages, saying UC had no shot to beat the Scarlet Knights.


--And finally, we get to the matchup with Rutgers - which has won five of its past 10 games (although that includes two victories vs. DePaul and one win against somebody called Caldwell). Senior guard Deonta Vaughn talked Monday about how UC's season was starting over and that the Bearcats were now 0-0. They're not even going to think about how they beat Rutgers 65-58 in early January.


"I like where we're at right now," Vaughn said. "We know what we have to do. We've got Rutgers, who we beat once. But Rutgers seems to get better every game. We just have to restart a new season."

Craig Carey's Big Adventure, Part II

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In case you missed the first part of Craig Carey's Big Adventure, click here. That's the background of how he's training like crazy for UC's Pro Day so he'll have a shot to continue his football career in the NFL.


Now, let's talk about his chances for impressing a scout or two on March 10 when most of the NFL teams invade the UC weight room and Nippert Stadium to measure, weigh and inspect each of the now former Bearcats.


Look, Carey isn't dense. He realizes his climb to pro football is steep, if not completely vertical. He's seen former Bearcats long shots have strong Pro Days only to be left on the outside of the league looking in. He knows a player in his position - a player not many college football fans outside of this city know much about - is an afterthought to the team representatives who will be attendance mostly to watch Tony Pike and Mardy Gilyard.


But he knows there's a chance, however slim. He knows he'll have a shot to impress.


"Hopefully the scouts come and see my ability and that everything goes well," Carey said. "Hopefully I'll get some individual workouts and go from there."


Carey also has secured the services of Xam Sports, the same agency that represents his good buddy, Connor Barwin. That only will help him in talks with possible employers.


As a tight end - a position Carey hasn't played since his junior year at Elder - his biggest strength is his hands. You might remember them from the Fresno State game last season when, with the Bulldogs deep in UC's territory late in the game, Carey read quarterback Ryan Colburn perfectly and intercepted him to preserve the Bearcats win.


But other than that catch, there's not much tape of what Carey could look like as an NFL tight end. That's probably a bit of a hindrance.


"It can be. It probably is," Carey said. "But it's kind of intriguing. Maybe scouts see I'm going to do the whole tight end thing, and now it leaves their mind open to see what I can do at that position. Not having any film probably hurts me, but I'm hoping they come in with an open mind and ask themselves, 'What can he do for us?'"


There also is something worse than no tape in the minds of NFL scouts. And that's bad tape.


"You have to have a really good Pro Day, and you have to have good tape," Barwin said. "The thing is Craig can have a really good Pro Day, but I can tell you that he's not going to have bad tape. There are guys who have a really good Pro Day and do all this stuff, but put him on a football field, and they have bad tape. That's the problem. Not having tape can be an issue, but it'd be worse to have bad tape."


When I was talking to Carey and Barwin a few weeks ago, I tried to think of the last two UC Pro Days I covered and who, if anybody, had a good enough Pro Day to turn themselves from a long shot into a potential prospect. Didn't happen for Terrill Byrd or Earnest Jackson or Dominick Goodman. Maybe Haruki Nakamura, but I think the Ravens liked him from the very beginning. We couldn't think of anybody.


But that doesn't mean Carey can't be the trailblazer.


"Right now, nobody pops into my head, but I really hope I'm the first to do it," he said. "I know a lot of people would say it's a long shot. And it obviously is a long shot. But with my ability, I can turn some heads and things can work out for the best."


Barwin agrees.


"I'll tell you what's going to happen," Barwin said. "This is what I learned through the process. They all don't think the same. All the coaches, all the personnel people don't think the same. Some people will look at him and think exactly what you said: 'He hasn't played in five years. I'm not even going to consider that.' There will be a half-dozen teams that say that. Then there might be one or 10 who say, 'This is kind of intriguing. We won't have to draft him; we won't have to pay him a bunch of money. Why not bring him in as a fourth tight end at training camp and see how he does?'


"That's all it takes to get a foot in the door. Somebody could pop an injury, something happens and he gets on practice squad for a year and he gets a coach that really likes him. There are so many ways that guys get in the league, stay in the league and get out of the league. It's never a traditional pattern with how things work out.


"I played defensive end in the league - it's only been one year, and I'm nothing near any kind of personnel guy - but I go against tight ends and he can play tight end in the league. There are things he'll have to do. He's have a lot he'll have to learn, but when you talk about raw talent on a football field and seeing what guys in the league can do, he can do it. He just needs to pull all the small things together, and he'll give himself a chance."

UC-Villanova Rock 'N Roll Party

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An at-large NCAA tournament berth looks completely out of the question now. I'm still surprised the Bearcats are being mentioned as one of the last four teams out on some well-respected web sites, but after losing tonight for the sixth time in the past eight games, I just don't see how UC can leapfrog so many other deserving squads.


That, in my mind, leaves one option. Win the Big East tournament. Is it possible? I'd say it'll be close to impossible. But UC's players wouldn't say it quite like that. Instead, they're hanging their hat on Hawaii and the way the team played during the Maui Invitational in order to survive the rigors of New York.

Remember that stretch three months ago? Beating a couple top-25 teams in Vanderbilt and Maryland before narrowly losing in overtime to Gonzaga? How well the team played together? The expectations that trio of games set off (at least temporarily)?


Deonta Vaughn thinks the team can return to that mindset when the Bearcats journey to New York next week (after, of course, playing their regular-season finale at Georgetown on Saturday). He believes the team can, in a manner of speaking, go back in time.


"We can still use that; we know what we did over there," Vaughn said. "We watched film as a team in Maui. We saw how we were playing. We were all one. Nobody was getting mad at each other because we missed a shot. Hopefully we'll get back to it when we get back to New York."


A nice sentiment, but is that really reality? Can anybody really see this team - one of the worst 3-point shooting squads in the country with an offense that doesn't score enough points - winning four-straight games at Madison Square Garden?


I guess it doesn't really matter what you or I think. Mick Cronin and his players believe they can. I asked Cronin how the team can do it. After saying the team just needed to win, I pressed him a little more. Better shooting? Better defense?

"Here's the biggest thing we talk about," he said. "When we struggle to score, that's when we have to get defensive stops. You have to play better defense when you struggle to score. I've been part of a lot of teams that have 25 or more wins. Look at Villanova, on nights when they don't make shots, they've still found a way to win. When they were scoring in the second half to get that lead, that's what hurt us. We were missing a lot of open shots, but you have to hang in, and your defense has got to keep you in there. That's where our defensive fortitude has to come in."


After the game, Cronin talked about how proud he was of his team, about how it continued to fight hard against the ninth-ranked squad in the nation.


"We had every opportunity to give in tonight," Cronin said. "We had tough calls go against us. We couldn't make a shot for a long period of time. But we continued to battle back against one of the best teams in the country. It's a pretty simple game. One team was making open shots and the other team was not."


The Bearcats will need to start to have any hope for the NCAA tournament.


--Nice effort from Deonta Vaughn. Though he only managed four points in the second half, he finished his Senior Night with an 18-point, three-assist performance. We'll miss him in the media room. Always willing to take questions, always willing to give the best answer he could, always pleasant to be around.


"He's a great player," Cronin said. "He gives everything he's got every night out there. Great preparation for this game. He showed he had great leadership in the locker room tonight. We would have loved to have gotten him a great win. It's nice to have somebody compete so the younger guys, like Cashmere and Jaquon, can see the way Deonta is competing out there and how hard they're going to have to compete to play in this league."


Villanova adjusted to his first-half production in the second half, making more of an effort to deny Vaughn the ball and using 6-foot-5 Reggie Reading to guard him.


"They figured out, on the pick and roll, to hurry up and come up with a trap so I wouldn't beat the man to the basket," Vaughn said. "They started to try to do a little more denying. We know what they were going to do. We knew the gameplan and we made the extra pass. We just couldn't make the shot."

UC-Villanova LIVE blog

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Live from 5/3 on Senior Night:

Not a ton of people here to honor Steve Toyloy and Deonta Vaughn, but they both get a nice round of applause, especially Vaughn. He really has been remarkable in his four years at UC.

Starting lineup: Vaughn, Larry Davis, Lance Stephenson, Toyloy, Yancy Gates.

Vaughn, on the second possession, nails the 3 to open the game's scoring. Sorta like what Ron Allen did a couple years ago.

Stephenson has a hand in each of the four possessions. First, he took a bad shot and missed. Then, he dished to an open Vaughn for the 3. Then, he turns it over. Then, he gets two offensive rebounds and pushes in the tip-in.

Say one thing for UC; the Bearcats are playing hard so far.

Not doing such a great job of rebounding, though. Villanova leads there 6-4.

Villanova 13, UC 7 (14:25 to go)

So far, Vaughn looks great. Best I've seen him look in a while.

At first, we thought "Why in the heck is McClain in the game?" Then, when Maalik Wayns couldn't get off a shot in the lane because McClain was standing there, we said, "Oh."

MIck is screaming at one of the refs, and he gets called for the technical. He is absolutely livid.

Somehow, I don't think the Chicken Dance during the official timeout will calm down anyone.

Villanova 18, UC 14 (10:47 to go)

For a brief time, Villanova was imssing its shots and not hitting 3-pointers with alarming regularity. That time has passed. A 3 by Corey Fisher gives the Wildcats a 10-point lead.

Ibrahima Thomas with an appearance.

Villanova 26, UC 20 (6:52 to go)

Nice dish by a driving Larry Davis to Yancy Gates, who lays it in, picks up the foul and makes the free throw. UC down by two with 5:15 to go in the half.

Villanova 27, UC 25 (3:52 to go)

Mick's got the jacket off after an offensive foul called on Gates. He's precariously close to getting tossed.

Actually, good atmosphere here tonight. It's about time.

Vaughn also playing really hard.

Wow, Vaughn with an amazing shot while taking the foul. He goes 1 on 3 on a fast break, somehow gets the layup to fall, and he makes the free throw to tie the game at 28-28. Then, a 3-pointer with 4 seconds left to tie the game again.

Vaughn leads the way with 14 points on 5 of 7 shooting. Nobody else with more than 5 for UC. The Bearcats are shooting 38.7 from the floor and 23.1 from the 3.

Villanova is led by Stokes' 10 points. The Wildcats are shooting 41.7 percent from the floor and 45.5 percent from the 3.

UC 31, Villanova 31 (half)

And just like that, Villanova scores five-straight and UC calls a timeout.

As Vaughn takes the foul and both he and Antonio Pena fall to the floor. Four Villanova players converge on Pena to help him up. Nobody gets Vaughn, until Gates walks over a few seconds later.

Gates tries to slap the ball away from Pena, and Pena responds with an elbow to the head. Then, some words are exchanged. Double technical foul on Gates and Pena.

Jeez, what horrendous shots UC is taking.

Everybody not named Deonta Vaughn is 0 for 11 from the 3.

Villanova 43, UC 32 (15:56 to go)

I don't know why Steve Toyloy is shooting a 15-foot jumper, but not surprisingly, he missed it.

It takes more than six minutes for UC to score its third and fourth points of the half. NIce dish by Vaughn to Bishop. Then, a 3 by Bishop cuts the lead to six.

Villanova 47, UC 39 (11:50 to go)

Larry Davis, it should be noted, is now 0 for 5 from the 3.

UC cut the lead to four, but then Scottie Reynolds scores six points, and suddenly, the Wildcats are up 12.

Mick still isn't happy with the refs.

Villanova 57, UC 48 (7:59 to go)

Jaquon Parker off the bench late, and he's making an impact. A nice drive for the layup and then a 3-pointer.

Then, a 3 by Vaughn, who had been awfully quiet this half, cuts the lead to seven. Jay Wright with the timeout.

Villanova 66, UC 59 (3:41 to go)

Two free throws by Stephenson cut the lead to 3 with 3:24 to go.

UC with the full-court pressure.

Stephenson misses the 3, but Bishop comes flying in for the rebound and the putback. One point game.

Reggie Redding gets a little lucky with that 3, and then taunts Deonta Vaughn a bit. UC timeout.

Villanova 71, UC 65 (1:22 to go)

Gates with a couple FTs to make it 71-67.

A turnover, and Vaughn misses the 3. That would have set this place on fire. Then, Bishop misses the 3 that bounced around the rim for like three bounces.

Reynolds makes 1 of 2 FTs to make it 72-67 with 40 seconds to go.

Vaughn misses a runner, a UC foul and that should just about it.

Redding makes only 1 of 2 to make it a six-point lead.

Not sure why UC isn't shooting 3s with 19 seconds to go, but Stephenson will get two foul shots. And he misses both.

OK, UC still in it. A Bishop 3 with 3.7 seconds to go cuts the lead to two points.

Reynolds will take two foul shots with 3.2 seconds to go. He makes both. Game.

Vaughn's final shot at 5/3 (unless there's somehow a NIT game here) clangs off the side.

Bishop leads the way with 19 points and Vaughn with 18. UC shoots 39.4 percent from the floor and 23.3 percent from the 3.

Villanova 77, UC 73 (final)

Craig Carey's big adventure, part I

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Craig Carey used to talk to former UC quarterbacks coach Greg Forest about it all the time. When the Bearcats special teams units were running through their drills at practice and they had a little time to kill, Forest would watch Carey run receiver routes and catch passes from Tony Pike, Zach Collaros and Chazz Anderson. Then, Forest would teach and encourage.


Carey - a former Bearcats quarterback, defensive end and linebacker - had a shot to play pro ball, Forest told him. But his chance wouldn't occur at any of the positions he played in college. Instead, in order to find a spot in the NFL, he'd have to return to a position he hadn't played since his junior year of high school. He'd have to play tight end.


"Coach Forest was always giving me feedback and he felt I could play tight end at the next level," Carey said. "That helped me with my mindset that I should give this a shot."


As Carey prepares for UC's Pro Day on March 10 - where those Bearcats who are hopeful long shots have a chance to impress the NFL scouts - Carey's mindset is sound. He's confident - perhaps, he laughs, overly-confident - and he really feels he has a chance to impress those who are on campus in nine days.


He says this in the bowels of the Lindner Center as he and Connor Barwin prepare to work out in the UC weight room. It's a place where he spends much of his time these days.


He drives to Mason every morning to train at Ignition, and lately, former La Salle and Bowling Green quarterback Tyler Sheehan has been showing up a couple times a week to throw to him. When Carey isn't catching passes, he's working on his 40-yard dash and his shuttle run times, focusing on perfecting his start and molding his technique.


Then, he'll grab some lunch and head to the UC weight room for a few hours of sweating and grunting. He'll finish the day by playing basketball with Barwin - who's also in town keeping himself in shape before he prepares for his second season with the Houston Texans.


"We play basketball, because you have to have a little shake to you," Carey said. "We're always going against each other to stay loose. We don't play one-on-one, but he did beat me in H-O-R-S-E the other day. Which is embarrassing, because he's not a very good shooter and I pride myself on my jumper."


And, oh yeah, Carey's still taking classes on Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday night, Thursday morning and afternoon, and on Friday to earn his degree.


"That's right," he said. "I actually forgot about that. But I throw that into my days as well. I wish I would have graduated earlier, because it would have made this a lot easier."


It's not easy for Carey, and that's probably appropriate, because his path to the NFL certainly won't be a simple one. Heck, it's almost impossible.


But he's also getting some indirect help from some of the Bearcats stars of the past. Now that the Bearcats have become a major player on the national scene and because now they're getting recognized for it by teams in the NFL - let's face it, UC has put plenty of players into pro ball, but the Bearcats weren't exactly considered Florida or Ohio State when it came to pro prospects - that only helps a guy like Carey.


Think most NFL teams won't be at UC on March 10, even if it's only to see Mardy Gilyard and Tony Pike? They will. Think a fringe prospect can't get noticed due in part to an extraordinary Pro Day? Ask Haruki Nakamura about that. If the scouts are there and Carey has a great day, that could bring a big boost to his pro dreams.


"I've always been a confident person," Carey said. "Going through the process, I always feel I have that shot to make it at the next level. Whether teams see that and see my ability, that's different because I haven't played as much as pretty much any person that's going to get drafted."


Still, an unknown can make a big impact if he impresses the right team at the right time. Transforming himself into a tight end might just be the way to do it.


"That's the thing: if anybody else was trying to do what he's doing, it doesn't sound like a good idea," Barwin said. "But then people that know him say, 'Ah, it might work.' You sit there and think about it, and you think about if he was a big recruit in high school. Look at his physical body. And look at what he did in college to what happened to him at quarterback to getting bounced around on defense. Why they didn't move him to offense? You start to think about that, and you say, 'You know? Maybe it will work.'"

The last few games of Vaughn's career

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I don't know what will happen with senior guard Deonta Vaughn in these final few games of the season. I thought, after his slow start at the beginning of the year, he'd slowly start to come around and begin to show the abilities he's showcased so impressively the past three seasons.


He's one of the best scorers in Bearcats history, and after admitting earlier this season he hadn't worked quite as hard last summer as he should have, I figured his point totals would rise and his impact on the team would deepen.


Apparently, I was wrong. After scoring six points in UC's win against DePaul on Wednesday, the two-time All-Big East player is averaging 11.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game while shooting 38.9 percent from the floor and 32.7 percent from the 3. He's been serviceable, but he's not the same Deonta Vaughn he was last year or the year before.


After the DePaul game, coach Mick Cronin tried to give Vaughn credit, saying he's been the first player to arrive at practice and for shoot-arounds and that he's trying hard to get himself out of his funk. But that doesn't answer the question of what's gone wrong.


"He's had senioritis all year," Cronin said. "Too much pressure on himself knowing it's his last year. You feel for kids in that situation. It's easy for me to sit here and judge him. I have a bank account and a nice house. It's hard to judge a young guy like him. You have to understand who he is and where he comes from. Not only would they like to make it and help themselves, but they'd like to help others as well. It's helping others live a better life."


Vaughn obviously would like to help UC to victories and would like to get taste of the NCAA tournament for the first time in his career. But there's a larger issue in his mind. He knows he'll need to make money next year. A spot in the NBA would be immensely huge for him and his family. He knows the way he's played this season hasn't helped his prospects. More pressure and more pressure.


"If you knew the background of some of my players and some of the guys playing, you'd understand the pressures that are on them," Cronin said. "You try to alleviate that as much as you can. Here's a guy who's wondering where his next meals are going to come from after his scholarship is gone. He's not going home to a six-car garage.


"(His family and friends) are there supporting him but you don't think he feels it?  He understands. They all do. That's the thing a lot of college players deal with, guys who are trying to make it as professionals. It happens to a lot of seniors unfortunately."


One mistake Vaughn made was in the offseason when he didn't prepare quite as hard as normal. That hard work, in essence, is what made Vaughn such a strong player in the first place. Without it, you see what he's got.


"I think he made the mistake of coming into the year overconfident because of the success he had, being All Big-East two times," Cronin said. "The problem with him is he's Charley Hustle. If he doesn't work hard and he's not totally ready to go, he loses his edge. He's not Tracy McGrady. He's Jameer Nelson. He's a grinder. That's who he is. He's not the best athlete on the court, he's not the fastest guy on the court. His whole life, he's been the toughest guy on the court. He has to have that edge about him."

UC-DePaul Rock 'N Roll Party

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So, apparently, there's hope the Bearcats can still make the NCAA tournament. That's what Yancy Gates said when I asked him about it after tonight's game. Even in the face of having to travel to No. 8 West Virginia on Saturday, playing host to No. 7 Villanova on March 2 and journeying to No. 11 Georgetown on March 6, Gates still has faith in his teammates.


"With the end of our schedule, we play three ranked teams, and we still have the Big East tournament," Gates said. "With a good showing, we still have a chance to slide back in. We have to play extremely harder and better than we've been playing lately. It will take a huge push from the whole team. Not just a couple players, it will involve everybody to make it happen. We feel we have the players to do that."


If Gates (a career-high 23 points and eight rebounds) and Lance Stephenson (his first career-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds) continue to play this well, that will go a long way in helping.


"Him and Yancy were great, but they were great in practice," Mick Cronin said. "It's amazing how practice is so indicative of the way you end up playing - when you're focused and making an effort to dominate in practice and go after every ball that comes off the rim. Yancy scored because he went after the ball and rebounded."


One reason Stephenson played so well - at least in his own mind - is because he says he stayed in the gym from 11 p.m. Tuesday night until 2 a.m. Wednesday morning working on his jump shot and his fundamentals with Sean Kilpatrick. Stephenson's dismal performance against Marquette on Sunday (two points in 11 minutes of action) helped fuel his desire to practice even harder.


"It just made me want to go to the gym more," Stephenson said. "I just kept working on my stuff to be perfect for today's game."


Plus, he had the monumental dunk over DePaul's Mac Koshwal that reminded Dan Hoard of James White and Mel Levett. Here's Stephenson's explanation of what happened:


"I don't know, I just went to the basket hard. I know I can dunk on people. I just went hard and jumped, and he lifted me up a little bit higher."


One aspect of the game the Bearcats will have to improve is the team's overall shooting and its ability to make free throws. After the game, Cronin likened his team's shooting to a really good college football team having a really bad place-kicker. That team, Cronin said, feels like it has to score touchdowns because it knows it simply can't rely on the kicker. In the same way, UC can't rely on its shooting, so it has to focus on rebounding and defense.


"We're 27 games in, we're not the world's best shooting team," Cronin said. "But we know we're capable of great defense and great rebounding. That's what we'll have to do to win games. We'll just have to keep on working on making shots and making free throws. We have to play to our strengths. We can't rely on making shots."


And as for the free throw shooting (53.5 percent in the past four games)?


"That bothers all of us a lot," Gates said. "We go through the drills and things where we have to make them in practice, and we make them for the most part. When we see (Vaughn) miss or Dion Dixon miss one, I know it's frustrating for them. It's difficult when you come out and see those guys missing free throws. We just have to be more confident at the line and trust our stroke going in."

UC-DePaul LIVE blog

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Starting lineup: Vaughn, Bishop, Thomas, Stephenson and Toyloy.

Maybe Mac Koshwals dunk (and his subsequent scream) to cut the UC lead to 6-3 might get some people excited. Or maybe Yancy Gates' 3-point opportunity will do the trick.

UC 8, DePaul 3 (15:45 to go)

Some students in one of the sections are wearing sombreros. I don't know why. If somebody could explain, I'd be happy to know.

Gates with a quick six points, including two long-range jumpers.

Nice hustle by Darnell to catch Jeremiah Kelly on the breakaway and actually leap over him to block the layup. Unfortunately for Wilks, he goal-tended. Still, it was something.

A dunk by Cashmere Wright forces DePaul to call for time.

UC 16, DePaul 11 (10:11 to go)

Apparently, they had the Chicken Dance during the break. Unfortunately, I missed it.

UC is 0 for 4 from the 3 and 0 for 3 from the FT line.

UC 20, DePaul 14 (7:58 to go)

Not a great sequence there. Koshwal swats away Vaughn's shot hard off the glass - it made an audible thump - and then Devin Hill goes in for the easy jam. Somebody from the crowd yells, "Nice hustle, Yancy." I think he was being sarcastic.

Put Lance Stephenson at the foul line, and he's automat ... wait, he just missed one. Never mind. But Gates gets the offensive board and puts in the layup.

UC 27, DePaul 23 (3:53 to go)

Can't fault Lance Stephenson. He's playing hard and diving into the cheerleader section.

UC on an 11-0 run to build a double-digit lead.

Dion Dixon was shooting 24.6 percent from the 3-point line entering tonight's game. Tonight, he's 0 for 2 so far.

Huge dunk at the buzzer by Stephenson, posterizing Koshwal. I think Stephenson's dunk was better than Koshwal's.

UC 35, DePaul 26 (half)

UC is shooting 42.9 percent from the floor and 0 percent from the 3 (0-for-5). DePaul is at 35.5 and 37.5 percent, respectively. UC is outrebounding DePaul 29-15.

Gates leads the way with 12 points, and Thomas has seven rebounds.

The first two minutes of the second half are playing out like a bad game of open gym.

A nice pass by Bishop around his defender to Toyloy for the layup. That gives UC an 11-point lead.

UC 45, DePaul 34 (15:33 to go)

DePaul just keeps hanging around, thanks to Tony Freeland and Will Walker.

Gates, by the way, has 17 points.

UC 50, DePaul 43 (11:59 to go)

Koshwal continues to play well. Drives by Gates to the rim for the layup, gets fouled and makes the FT to make it a four-point game.

UC is 9 for 17 from the foul line and 0 for 8 from the 3.

Deonta Vaughn has two points on 1 of 5 shooting.

UC 57, DePaul 53 (7:17 to go)

Gates has been on fire from the floor. He's got 21 points, one off his career high.

Almost a 3-pointer from Stephenson, but Tim Higgins looks at the replay and says, "Nope, that's a two."

UC is 9 for 22 from the foul line.

UC 63, DePaul 56 (3:44 to go)

DePaul down seven, and UC forces back-to-back-to-back turnovers and gets a dunk from Gates to go up nine.

Another shot-clock violation by the Demons.

Gates has a career-high with 23 points.

UC should be up by 15 with 1 minute to go, but DePaul keeps hanging around.

And it's over. Which is about the best thing you can say about tonight.

UC 74, DePaul 69 (final)