Bearcats Host Orange in BIG EAST Home Opener


Men's Basketball |

Jan. 8, 2008

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After having a string of back-to-back wins vs. Miami (OH) and Louisville snapped at St. John's last Saturday, the Cincinnati Bearcats (6-8, 1-1 BIG EAST) are looking to get back to their winning ways when they host Syracuse (12-3, 2-0 BIG EAST), Wednesday, Jan. 8 at 8 p.m. UC dropped its last game vs. St. John's, 70-58, despite a 24-point outing by BIG EAST Honor Roll selection Deonta Vaughn. Syracuse heads into the matchup winners of eight of its last nine and six in a row, including a 89-77 victory over USF last Saturday.


FINDING CONSISTENCY: One thing that every young team has to develop as they mature is consistency and the Cincinnati Bearcats are no different. When you compare Cincinnati's stats in wins vs. losses you can see where a lack of consistency has made a difference. In UC's six wins, the team is shooting .443 from the field compared to .401 in the losses.  The largest difference that is impacting whether UC comes out ahead or not is the team's overall defense. In wins, the Bearcats are holding their opponents to .379 shooting from the field and 58.5 points per game. Contrasting that to UC's eight losses, Cincinnati's defense is allowing its opponents score on .470 of their shots, leading to 73.5 points per game - a difference of 15 points per game in wins vs. losses.


Syracuse at Cincinnati


SCOUTING THE ORANGE: Syracuse comes into Cincinnati tied atop the BIG EAST Conference at 2-0 and riding a six-game winning streak, the second-longest active streak in the league. The Orange has won its first two league games with wins at home vs. St. John's, 76-70, and USF, 89-77. SU is the BIG EAST's top scoring offense, averaging 85.9 points per game, led by Donte Greene's 19.1 points per game. Greene, the league's second-leading scorer, is joined by four other double-figure scorers - Eric Devendorf (17.0 ppg), Jonny Flynn (14.5), Arinze Onuaku (14.5) and Paul Harris (12.9). Defensively, Syracuse has allowed opponents to put up 75.3 points per contest on .415 shooting from the field and outrebounded them by a +7.7 margin (42.1-34.5 rpg).


NAILBITERS: After splitting the first two games of the series with Cincinnati by an average margin of 18 points, Syracuse has won the last two match-ups by one point each. The Orange downed the Bearcats, 74-73, in the first round of UC's first BIG EAST Conference Tournament in 2005-06 as Gerry McNamara buried a last-second 3-pointer for the win. Last season, SU spoiled the Bearcats' hope of a 19-point come-from-behind win as Eric Devendorf drained a pair of free throws with 13 second left in the game to put Syracuse back on top. This season, Cincinnati is 4-2 in games decided by five points or less.


BIG EAST HOME OPENERS: After starting its BIG EAST schedule at Fifth Third Arena the last two years, the Bearcats played two conference road games this season before returning to Cincinnati for Wednesday's league home opener against Syracuse. The Bearcats are 1-1 in conference home lid-lifters, knocking off DePaul, 82-60, in its first ever BIG EAST game on Jan. 4, 2006. Last year, Rutgers up ended UC in a low-scoring affair, 54-42.


DEFENDING THE LINE: In UC's last three games, it has either defended the 3-pointer well or not. One key to the Bearcats' back-to-back wins vs. Miami (OH) and Louisville was its 3-point shooting defense that 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 allowed in Mick Cronin's tenure. In the last game at St. John's, the Red Storm exploited the Bearcats from behind the line, connecting on .462 (6-of-13) of its 3-pointers.


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 time 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 7.0 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 .554 (31-of-56) from the field and .536 (15-of-28) from behind the 3-point arc.


IN THE LAST FIVE GAMES: Senior guard Deonta Vaughn has scored in double figures five times and leads the team with 18.6 points per game ... Vaughn is one of six players averaging five or more points per game ... UC is shooting 43.8 percent from the field (114-of-260), including 36.8 percent (58-of-84) from behind the 3-point line ... Vaughn has knocked down 13 treys and is shooting 43.3 percent from behind the line ... as a team, UC is shooting .690 from the free-throw line, led by Vaughn at .889 (16-of-18).


THE BIG MAN, A BIG HELP OFF THE BENCH: Freshman center Anthony "Biggie" McClain has started to live up to his nickname, providing the Bearcats a major spark off the bench with a combined 14 points, 17 rebounds, and five blocked shots in the last three games. McClain, who was averaging just 7.1 minutes per contest in the first 11 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 12 defensive boards in his last three 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 7.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game.


WHATEVER IT TAKES: Senior guard Jamual Warren has 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. At 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. Warren was missed in the Bearcats last game at St. John's as he was limited to 24 minutes, five minutes below his average, due to early foul troubles and finished with four assists, two rebounds, and no points.


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 eight 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 43 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 in December.


BEHIND THE LINE: The Bearcats are shooting .336 from behind the 3-point line this season, ranking them 14th 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 (56-of-133) on .421 shooting. The rest of the team is 36-of-141 (.255).


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 7.5 points per game, Gentry has netted 54 of his 98 points this season from behind the 3-point line where he is converting 42.9 percent (18-of-42).


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 103 points (17.2 ppg) in his last six starts. His 24 points at St. John's were his sixth straight and 11th overall double-digit scoring performance of the season. Vaughn leads the team and is ninth in the BIG EAST with 15.9 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 seven games, scoring 77 points (11.0 ppg) and pulling down 39 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 second on the team scoring with 9.7 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 9.6 points per game. The 6-foot-10 post player is also Cincinnati's second-leading rebounder with 5.4 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 14 games and starting eight 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 5.6 points per game. Not only has he provided offensive punch, he has also added 3.5 rebounds and is third on the team with 25 assists.


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, Vaughn has been able to scale back, playing just 29.9 minutes per game. After Vaughn's season average of 32.7 minutes per game, the next closest player on the team is Warren, who is averaging 29.5 minutes per game since his return.


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.


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.


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 44 rebounds (20 offensive) and blocked 16 shots in just 127 minutes of action. Bishop and Davis have had the best offensive seasons to date, averaging 5.6 and 4.6 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 playing six of its last eight games prior to Syracuse on the road, the Bearcats stay at home and take on No. 17/No. 19 Villanova on Saturday, Jan. 12 at 7 p.m. on ESPNU. The Wildcats own a 3-0 advantage in the series with the Bearcats and are 2-0 since UC joined the BIG EAST. Last season, Villanova held Cincinnati to .342 shooting in a 64-48 victory.







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