Bearcats Ready to Weather Red Storm|
Jan. 4, 2008
Fresh off a 58-57 victory at Louisville in their BIG EAST Conference opener, the Cincinnati Bearcats (6-7, 1-0 BIG EAST) head to St. John's University (6-6, 0-1 BIG EAST) this Saturday, Jan. 5 for a 6 p.m. tip. The game will be broadcast on ESPN Classic. The win at Louisville was UC's first at Freedom Hall since Jan. 13, 2001 and gave the Bearcats back-to-back wins for the first time in a month. St. John's dropped its BIG EAST opener at Syracuse 76-70 and is 1-3 in its last four games. The Red Storm is 5-2 at home this season.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE: The holiday break came at the right time for the Bearcats this season as they were shooting a combined 36.0 percent from the field vs. UAB, Illinois State and Xavier. Over the break, head coach Mick Cronin emphasized improving the team's shooting percentage with special practices focused on getting better from the field. The additional work has shown dividends the last four games as UC has improved its shooting dramatically and is knocking down 44.0 percent from the field, including a season-best 46.9 percent (23-of-49) at Louisville. Sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn and senior John Williamson have seen the most benefit from the practice as Vaughn is shooting 53.5 percent and Williamson 50.0 percent since the Xavier game.
SCOUTING THE RED STORM: After getting off to a 4-0 start, St. John's has dropped six of its last eight games, including its last two vs. Virginia Tech (54-48) and Syracuse (76-70). Offensively, the Red Storm is averaging 68.0 points per game, led by freshman forward Justin Burrell (12.0 ppg). Burrell, who also leads the squad in rebounding (7.8 rpg), is one of four starters averaging 10-plus points per game. Its top 3-point shooter, sophomore Larry Wright leads the Red Storm with 24 treys and is shooting .393 from behind the arc. The St. John's defense has been solid this season giving up 65.0 points per game on 40.6 percent shooting by its opponents. They are third in the BIG EAST defending the 3-pointer, allowing opponents to convert on 31.0 percent (58-of-187). The Bearcats will have to be aware of senior guard Eugene Lawrence as he is leads the team and is fifth in the BIG EAST with 2.25 steals per game.
BIG EAST STARTS: Only in its third season in the BIG EAST, Cincinnati is 2-0 and 0-2 the last two seasons to start the conference slate. In 2005-06, the Bearcats started off with wins vs. DePaul, 82-60, and Marquette, 70-66, before losing to Connecticut, 70-59. Last year, UC lost to Rutgers, 54-42, and USF, 74-59, to start the league. This is the first year Cincinnati has opened the BIG EAST season with a pair of road games.
BIG EAST OPENER: The Cincinnati Bearcats rang in the New Year and opened the BIG EAST season in fine fashion with a 58-57 win at Louisville on Tuesday. The win snapped UC's 15-game road losing streak and gave the Bearcats their first win at Freedom Hall since Jan. 13, 2001. After a close game throughout, sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn, who had just two points through the first 30 minutes of the game, keyed the Bearcats down the stretch with 11 points in the final nine minutes, including a pair of free throws with 1:14 to play. Senior guard Jamual Warren pitched in three points of his own and equaled his career highs with eight rebounds and seven assists.
DEFENDING THE LINE: One key to the Bearcats' success in the last two games has been their 3-point shooting defense. In the Miami (OH) and Louisville games, UC has held the two opponents to a combined 5-of-35 (.143) from behind the arc. The RedHawks 2-of-12 (.167) and the Cardinals 2-of-23 (.130) are the two lowest 3-point shooting percentages a Mick Cronin team has allowed in his tenure.
GOING INTO SHUTDOWN MODE: In its last two games, Cincinnati's defense has taken away one of its opponents top-two leading scorers, holding Miami (OH)'s Michael Bramos, who was averaging over 17 points per game, and Louisville's Derrick Caracter, posting over 12 points a game, to two points each.
HOLDING ON WITH A FIRM GRIP: In just over a season and a half, one characteristic of a Mick Cronin team has been its ability to hold on to leads late. When the Bearcats lead with five minutes remaining in the game, they are undefeated at 5-0 this season and are 14-3 in Cronin's tenure at Cincinnati.
TAKING OVER AT THE END: Since sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn joined the team last season, he has been given the ball and asked to take on the added pressure of being the go-to player down the stretch. Vaughn has responded to the challenge, especially this season, as he has averaged 6.5 points during the final 10 minutes of games. What is even more impressive are his shooting percentages in the final 10 minutes as he is converting .542 (26-of-48) from the field and .577 (15-of-26) from behind the 3-point line.
IN THE LAST FIVE GAMES: Senior guard Deonta Vaughn has scored in double figures five times and leads the team with 15.8 points per game ... Vaughn is one of six players averaging six or more points per game ... Adam Hrycaniuk (5.4), John Williamson (5.2), and Jamual Warren (5.2) are each averaging over five rebounds per game ... UC is shooting 41.6 percent from the field (35-of-89), including 39.3 percent (56-of-83) from behind the 3-point line ... Vaughn has knocked down 13 treys and is shooting 48.1 percent from behind the line.
THE BIG MAN, A BIG HELP OFF THE BENCH: Freshman center Anthony "Biggie" McClain has lived up to his nickname the last two games, providing the Bearcats a major spark off the bench with a combined 14 points, 16 rebounds, and three blocked shots. McClain, who was averaging just 7.1 minutes per game prior to the last two games, has earned the extra playing time by working on his defensive rebounding. After pulling down 12 defensive rebounds in his first 10 games, McClain has 11 defensive boards in his last two outings. As McClain earns more minutes on the floor, he could provide UC with a "big" presence on both ends of the court. Statistically, if projecting his season averages out over 30 minutes a game, McClain would average 10.3 points, 11.3 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game.
WHATEVER IT TAKES: Senior guard Jamual Warren played key roles for the Bearcats in their last two wins. In the win over Miami (OH), he personally led an 8-0 run of his own with a jumper and back-to-back treys to break a 38-38 tie. Warren, a career 13.6 percent (9-of-66) 3-point shooter heading into the Miami game, knocked down 2-of-3 from behind the arc vs. the RedHawks and went on to score 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting -- one short of his career high of 16 points vs. West Virginia last season. He also added six rebounds, three assists, and a steal vs. MU. In the last game vs. Louisville, he was asked to take on a completely different role as a rebounder and to run the offense. Warren responded again, equaling his career highs with eight rebounds and seven assists.
DEFENSIVE ASSISTANCE: The return of Jamual Warren to the line-up at UAB after his hand injury has paid dividends for UC defensively as he has already tallied 11 steals in seven games. Last season, Cincinnati ranked eighth in the BIG EAST in steals per game (7.67) and Warren averaged 1.83 of the total. Before Warren's return, the Bearcats were only making 4.85 steals per game -- last in the BIG EAST -- but the Bearcats have made 38 steals (5.4 per game) since his return.
A DIFFERENCE A MONTH MAKES: When the calendar flipped to 2008, the Bearcats were happy to turn the page on a difficult month. After going 4-2 in the month of November, Cincinnati went 1-5 in December, losing five straight, including a pair vs. nationally ranked opponents -- No. 17 Xavier and No. 2 Memphis -- before knocking off Miami (OH) on Dec. 29. The biggest problem area was UC's shooting. In the first six games of the season, the Bearcats were making .433 of their shots (46-of-135), but then connected on just .394 (132-of-335) in December. The shooting difference is highlighted when you examine the team's 3-point marksmanship, which dropped from .341 in the first six games to .303.
STRONG ON THE GLASS: After being out-rebounded three straight games vs. Fairfield (-12 rebounding margin), UAB (-7), and Illinois State (-2), the Bearcats have been strong to the glass in their last five games, out-rebounding their opponents by 3.6 boards per game (36.2 to 32.6). Seniors John Williamson and Adam Hrycaniuk lead Cincinnati in rebounding with 6.5 and 5.6 rebounds per game, respectively.
BEHIND THE LINE: The Bearcats are shooting .337 from behind the 3-point line this season, ranking them 12th in the BIG EAST. Sophomore Deonta Vaughn and senior Marvin Gentry are carrying the load for Cincinnati, accounting for 61 percent of UC's 3-pointers (53-of-87) on .430 shooting. The rest of the team is 34-of-135 (.252).
BACK TO WORK: Senior guard Marvin Gentry, who was taken off the floor at the Xavier game on Dec. 12 after colliding with teammate Deonta Vaughn and suffering a head injury, missed the Memphis game but returned to the line-up at North Carolina State where he played 19 minutes and scored nine points. The team's fourth-leading scorer, averaging 7.8 points per game, Gentry has netted 51 of his 93 points this season from behind the 3-point line where he is converting 42.5 percent (17-of-40).
BACK ON TRACK: After scoring a combined 13 points vs. UAB and Illinois State, sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn has found his scoring touch again, notching 79 points (15.8 ppg) in his last five starts. His 13 points at Louisville were his fifth straight and 10th overall double-digit scoring performance of the season. Vaughn leads the team and is 12th in the BIG EAST with 15.3 points per game.
WILL-I-AM-SON: Senior forward John Williamson, who averaged 13.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game last season, has broken out of a slump in his last six games, scoring 65 points (10.8 ppg) and pulling down 34 rebounds. In the four games prior to Illinois State, Williamson recorded 6.0 points per game on 10-of-32 shooting (.313). Williamson was "Mr. Consistent" for UC last season, scoring in double figures in 23 of the team's 30 games. He is currently third on the team scoring with 9.5 points per game.
EUROPEAN IMPACT: Senior center Adam Hrycaniuk (pronounced hu-RITZ-a-nyuk), a native of Poland, has made an immediate impact on the Bearcats. After having to sit out last year due to NCAA clearance issues, Hrycaniuk has jumped into the line-up for UC and become an offensive threat, scoring 9.8 points per game. The 6-foot-10 post player is also Cincinnati's second-leading rebounder with 5.6 rebounds per game.
BISHOP TAKES QUEEN (CITY): Freshman forward/guard Rashad Bishop has quickly become one of the Bearcats' top all-around newcomers. Appearing in all 13 games and starting seven for UC this season, Bishop has scored in double digits three times, including two games with a season-high 12 points (Bowling Green and Fairfield). After breaking out of a mini slump vs. Memphis with nine points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals, Bishop is averaging 5.8 points per game. Not only has he provided offensive punch, he has also added 3.5 rebounds and is third on the team with 24 assists. Recently, ESPN.com named Bishop one of the BIG EAST's top impact freshmen.
30-MINUTE MAN ...: Through Cincinnati's first six games, sophomore point guard Deonta Vaughn was the iron-man of UC basketball, logging an average of 36.5 minutes per game. In the season opener vs. Belmont, Vaughn played 39 minutes for the Bearcats, three short of his career high of 42, in a 70-67 overtime victory over Seton Hall, on Feb. 28 of last season. With the return of UC's other veteran point guard Jamual Warren to the line-up at UAB, Vaughn has been able to scale back, playing just 29.1 minutes per game in his last seven games. After Vaughn's season average of 32.5 minutes per game, the next closest player on the team is Warren, who is averaging 30.3 minutes per game since his return.
LENDING A HELPING HAND: Sophomore point guard Deonta Vaughn is averaging a team-best 4.4 assists per game, ranking him ninth in the BIG EAST. Vaughn could be the first player to dish out 5.0 or more assists per game since Taron Barker (5.0) in 2002-03.
PHYSICALLY FIT: Over the last 15 years, UC basketball has the reputation of being one the most physically fit teams in the country and developing players for the next level. That comes from the players' hard work in the weight room and conditioning. This season, Adam Hrycaniuk, John Williamson and Branden Miller each can bench press over 300 pounds, led by Hrycaniuk at 315 pounds. Even the guards have impressive stats with Deonta Vaughn squatting 500 pounds and Marvin Gentry, who weighs 180 pounds, bench pressing a max of 260 pounds. Freshman forward Darnell Wilks and senior guard Jamual Warren are the team's high flyers with 40- and 36.5-inch vertical jumps, respectively.
WHEN YOU NEED IT MOST: Senior center Adam Hrycaniuk has been clutch for the Bearcats late in games, converting 7-of-8 free throws (.875) in the last three minutes of games determined by 10 points or less. As a team, the Bearcats are shooting .769 (30-of-39) from the line down the stretch of close games.
PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELF: Head coach Mick Cronin, in just his second year at Cincinnati, has done the work of a coach in his fourth year on the job, having signed 15 players in the last 18-plus months. This season's six-person freshman class is considered by the recruiting services as one of the Top 20 groups in the nation and the stats attest to that. Larry Davis and Rashad Bishop have combined for five double-digit scoring nights and center Anthony McClain has scored 40 points, pulled down 43 rebounds (20 offensive) and blocked 14 shots in just 115 minutes of action. Bishop and Davis have had the best offensive seasons to date, averaging 5.8 and 4.9 ppg, respectively.
WILLIAMS TO MISS SEASON WITH RUPTURED ACHILLES: Junior forward Mike Williams, who was preparing for his first season on the court for the University of Cincinnati, will miss the 2007-08 season after rupturing his Achilles tendon in preseason workouts. Williams, a 6-7, 230-pound native of Camden, Ala., sat out last season at UC after transferring from the University of Texas and was expected to start this season for Cincinnati. As a Longhorn, Williams played in 58 games over two years, averaging 2.7 points and 3.4 rebounds.
THE INK IS DRY: The University of Cincinnati men's basketball team signed two players to national letters of intent for the 2008-09 season, head coach Mick Cronin announced on the first day of the early signing period. Joining the Bearcats are forward Yancy Gates (Cincinnati, OH/Withrow) and guard Cashmere Wright (Savannah, GA/Urban Christian High School).
Gates, a 6-foot-9, 255-pound forward, is one of the nation's top 50 players according to several recruiting sites. As a junior at Withrow High School playing for Walt McBride, Gates averaged 19.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.1 blocks per game in 2006-07. He helped the Tigers to a 17-6 record and missed the state semifinals by one game. A second-team Ohio all-state selection, Gates is the first freshman player in Cronin's first three recruiting classes to come from the talent-rich Cincinnati area.
Wright, another highly-regarded recruit, who is ranked among many of the recruiting services top 100 players, comes to Cincinnati from the Urban Christian Academy in Savannah, Ga., where he averaged 36.2 points, 10.0 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 steals per game in 2006-07. In his first two games this season, Wright posted 43 and 35 points, respectively, and is a McDonald's All-America candidate.
BEARCATS ON TV: This season, all 30 of Cincinnati's regular-season contests are being broadcast via its local package with FOX19 (WXIX-TV) or through the conference package with the ESPN family of networks (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN Classic, ESPN 360, or ESPN Regional). The BIG EAST's ESPN Regional package, which includes the BIG EAST Game of the Week, can be seen in Cincinnati on CinCW, the digital sister station of WKRC-TV (Channel 12). CinCW is available on most local cable systems as well as satellite providers.
LOOKING AHEAD: After a two-game road trip to start the BIG EAST Conference schedule, the Bearcats return home for two straight vs. Syracuse on Jan. 9 and vs. Villanova on Jan. 12. Wednesday's game versus Syracuse will be just the fifth meeting, all as members of the BIG EAST, between the two long-time NCAA Tournament participants. The Orange own a 3-1 advantage in the series.