Gotta ugly it up a bit

Jan. 14, 2009

(9:46 a.m.): Mick Cronin has a new diagnosis for what plagues the UC basketball team: the Bearcats are too nice, too pretty, and too unwilling to get dirty. Heading into tonight’s Rutgers game, he said UC has to figure out a way to get a little ugly in order to win its first Big East game of the year.

Maintaining the team confidence is good, Cronin said, but it might be helpful if the Bearcats get a little desperate as well.

“I would say absolutely,” Cronin said Tuesday after he was asked if his players have stayed positive during their current losing streak. “I don’t know if that’s a good thing. At some point, the key is somebody has to say, “Enough is enough” in the locker room. Not necessarily put their head down, but get upset.”

I asked if anybody in the locker room has that ability to speak out.

“We’re about to find out,” he said. “We had them last year. They graduated. Certain guys said “Enough is enough” and it turned our season around. We’ll see. We’re a little too nice. Conference play is about being tough and winning ugly. Right now, we have too many pretty guys. We have to learn how to get uglier.”

Tonight would be a good start against a Scarlet Knights squad that has lost five straight. But don’t be fooled by that stretch. In their skid, they’ve fallen to No. 1 North Carolina, No. 3 Pittsburgh, No. 2 UConn, No. 18 Marquette and No. 11 Syracuse. UC might be excited to play one of the weaker conference teams, but you can be sure Rutgers is ready for the same.

“Rutgers is a much better team,” Mick said. “You can’t look at Rutgers’ losing streak, the same you can’t look at our losing streak. It’s all about the opponent. You have to understand they can score and are a much better team than they were a year ago. They can score the ball better. That’s been a problem for Rutgers the last two years. Conversely, playing freshmen that are talented, they don’t tend to defend as well as the older guys. The scary party about Rutgers is they play a three-guard offense, and when they get hot from the 3-point line … when you’re in my spot, you watch film and they start making a lot of 3s, it makes you nervous.”



Perhaps, but it doesn’t seem like Rutgers gets hot from the 3-point line all that much. After all, the Scarlet Knights are making only 29 percent of their long-distance shots. They’re pretty good at defending the 3-point shot (they allow opponents to shoot 27.4 percent, third-best in the league), they rebound the ball on defense and they average a Big East-leading 7.4 blocks per game. But other than that, Rutgers is stuck near the bottom of the league in most other statistics.

Meanwhile, UC – even with the five-game losing streak – remains positive.

“Our confidence is high,” Mike Williams said. “The other night (vs. UConn) we played hard, but we still lost the game because of a few minor breakdowns. But as long as everybody keeps playing hard, everything will work out. It all comes back to the locker room, the guys in the locker room. Nobody is holding their heads down or anything. As long as we hold our heads high, we’re still positive. That’s still there. Everybody is just itching for a win.”