Bearcats Host Huskies for First Time

Jan. 22, 2008

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After picking up their third win in the last four games, the Cincinnati Bearcats (9-9, 4-2 BIG EAST) host the University of Connecticut (12-5, 3-3 BIG EAST) to start the middle third of the BIG EAST season on Wednesday, Jan. 23 at 7:30 p.m. in Fifth Third Arena. The Bearcats sit in second place in the BIG EAST Conference , tied with West Virginia and DePaul, each posting four league wins. UConn, who is 2-3 in its last five games, knocked off Marquette, 89-73, Sunday to even its league record.


VOTING IN THE "PRIMARY" POLLS:  The University of Cincinnati men's basketball team earned votes in both the Associated Press and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll this week. The Bearcats earned five votes in the AP Poll and one in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' rankings. UC, which was picked to finish 12th in the BIG EAST this season, is tied for second in the conference after knocking off Pittsburgh last Saturday, 62-59. It was Cincinnati's second straight win over a ranked opponent. The Bearcats knocked off then-No. 19 Villanova, 69-66, on Jan. 12. The last time UC was nationally ranked came in 2005-06 when it was No. 25 for one week. Coincidently, Cincinnati lost to then-No. 4 UConn, 70-59, that week.


Connecticut at Cincinnati


SCOUTING THE HUSKIES: The Connecticut Huskies travel to Cincinnati for the first time, coming off a 89-73 win at home vs. nationally ranked Marquette on Sunday. The win was UConn's second in its last five games. The Huskies' return five starters to a young squad that has one senior and four juniors. After juniors Jeff Adrien (14.5 ppg) and A.J. Price (14.1 ppg), the next three leading scorers for UConn are sophomores - Jerome Dyson (14.0 ppg), Stanley Robinson (10.5 ppg), and Hasheem Thabeet (10.5 ppg). The five players account for 79 percent of the Huskies' 80.8 points per game, which ranks third in the conference in team scoring. On the glass, UConn tops the BIG EAST in defensive rebounding (44.4 rpg), leading to a +7.1 per game rebounding margin. The Bearcats, who are being charged with over 20 fouls per game, will have a challenge keeping the Huskies from getting to the free-throw line where they are taking on average 30 free throws per game and converting .692 for almost 21 point per contest. The Huskies rely heavily on their potent offense because they are giving up 69.2 points per game, the fifth most in the BIG EAST.  Price, Dyson, and reserve sophomore guard Doug Wiggins play a major roles creating turnovers for UConn with each averaging more than a steal a game.


BEARCATS IN THE BIG EAST: Since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 2005-06, Cincinnati owns an overall record of 14-24 in league play, including a 11-8 mark in Fifth Third Arena. The Bearcats have won their last four BIG EAST home games, dating back to last season's 70-67 overtime win over Seton Hall in the home finale.


Overall Record:           14-24 (6-16 under Cronin)

Home:                         11-8 (5-6 under Cronin)

Away:                          3-16 (1-10 under Cronin)

First BIG EAST Win:   82-60 vs. DePaul, 1/4/06

Most UC Points:          96 (96-83, W-OT) vs. West Virginia, 1/20/07

Most Opponent Points:          91 (91-74, L) at Notre Dame, 1/15/08

Combined Points:       179 (96-83, W-OT) vs. West Virginia, 1/20/07

Biggest UC Win:         22 (82-60) vs. DePaul, 1/4/06


BIG EAST TIMES TWO: For the first time since 1998-99, the BIG EAST is playing an 18-game league schedule after playing 16 games the last eight years. The new 18-game format has schools playing each league opponent once and three teams twice. Cincinnati faces Connecticut, Pittsburgh, and St. John's in three home-and-home series. The Bearcats took on St. John's in New York in their second league game of the season on Jan. 5, losing 70-58, and knocked off Pittsburgh in Fifth Third, 62-59 last Saturday. UC faces Connecticut to round out the trio Wednesday before finishing up the first half of the BIG EAST schedule at Seton Hall (Jan. 27) and West Virginia (Jan. 30). Connecticut and Marquette, whom the Bearcats play at home on Feb. 2, are the two teams UC did not face in BIG EAST play last season.


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 statistics in wins vs. losses you can see where a lack of consistency has made a difference. In UC's nine wins, the team is shooting .442 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 defense. In wins, the Bearcats are holding their opponents to .396 shooting from the field and 60.2 points per game. Contrasting that to UC's nine losses, Cincinnati's defense is allowing its opponents to score on .470 of their shots, leading to 75.4 points per game - a difference of 15.2 points per game in wins vs. losses.


BIG TIME PLAY IN THE BIG EAST: After a record of 5-7 in non-conference play, head coach Mick Cronin needed the leaders on the team to step up and show the way as the Bearcats headed into BIG EAST Conference play. Sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn and senior forward John Williamson have picked up the pace offensively. Vaughn, who averaged 15.5 points per game during the non-conference schedule, has posted 19.2 points per night in the league, while Williamson has improved his scoring average from 10.5 in non-conference play to 11.0 in the BIG EAST. On the defensive side of the ball, senior guard Jamual Warren has given UC a new presence on the glass, pulling down a 5.5 boards a game, just behind Williamson (5.7).


HELP OFF THE BENCH: For Cincinnati, team depth has provided Coach Cronin with a great deal of options as he has fine tuned a rotation of players that goes 10 deep playing 100 minutes or more. That depth played a big part in UC's last four games as the Bearcats have outscored the opposition's bench 95-40, including a 23-2 advantage vs. Syracuse and a 40-16 vs. Notre Dame. On average, the Bearcats are getting 18.1 points per game from their reserves, led by seniors Marvin Gentry and Marcus Sikes who are averaging 6.9 and 3.6 points per game, respectively, off the bench.


DEFENDING THE LINE: In UC's last six games, it has either defended the 3-pointer well or not. One key to the Bearcats' last five wins has been their 3-point shooting defense that held Miami (OH), Louisville, Syracuse, Villanova, and Pittsburgh to a combined 18-of-89 (.202) 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 Bearcats' losses, St. John's was able to exploit the Bearcats from behind the line, connecting on .462 (6-of-13) of its 3-pointers, while Notre Dame was 9-of-17 (.529). In BIG EAST games, UC has limited its opponents to a .290 shooting percentage behind the line and 5.1 treys per game. That is almost two fewer 3-pointers allowed per contest, comparing non-conference (7.0) to conference.


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 8-0 this season, and are 17-3 in Cronin's time at Cincinnati. The loss last week at Notre Dame marked the first time this season and just the second time in Cronin's two seasons at UC he has lost a game when leading at halftime.


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 6.9 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 .543 (38-of-70) from the field and .457 (16-of-35) from behind the 3-point arc.


IN THE LAST FIVE GAMES: The Bearcats are 3-2 in BIG EAST play and 3-0 at home ... senior guard Deonta Vaughn has scored in double figures five times and leads the team with 20.4 points per game ... Vaughn is one of seven players averaging five or more points per game ... UC is shooting 42.6 percent from the field (116-of-272), including 28.6 percent (28-of-98) from behind the 3-point line ... Vaughn has knocked down 11 treys and is shooting 28.9 percent from behind the line ... as a team, UC is shooting .713 from the free-throw line, led by Vaughn at .806 (29-of-36) ... point guard Jamual Warren and Vaughn lead the team with 21 assists apiece ... senior forward John Williamson leads the team in rebounds (6.0) followed by senior center Adam Hrycaniuk (5.2) and Warren (5.0).


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 33 points, 29 rebounds, and six blocked shots in the last seven games. McClain, who was averaging just 7.1 minutes per contest in the first 11 games, has earned the extra playing time (17.4 minutes per game since) by working on his defensive rebounding. After pulling down 12 defensive rebounds in his first 10 games, McClain has 18 defensive boards in his last seven outings.


TAKING THE POINT: Senior guard Jamual Warren has played differing roles for the Bearcats in their last five 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, who was limited to 24 minutes at St. John's due to early foul troubles, rebounded vs. Syracuse and Villanova, providing a combined 12 rebounds, 10 assists, and four steals to go along with 12 points. In the upset of Pittsburgh, he continued to provide UC solid time at the point, putting up four points, four assists and six rebounds in 37 minutes of work.


TAKING THE POINT II: In BIG EAST play, senior Jamual Warren has done an exceptional job protecting the ball and distributing it to his teammates. In conference games only, Warren ranks tied for seventh in the league in assists (4.67 apg) and is ninth with a 2.00 assist/turnover ratio (28 assists/14 turnovers).


DEFENSIVE ASSISTANCE: The return of Jamual Warren to the line-up six games into the season at UAB, after his hand injury, has paid dividends for UC defensively as he leads the team with 18 steals. 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 5.8 per game since his return.


WHAT 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 -- then-No. 17 Xavier and then-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 .323 from behind the 3-point line this season, ranking them 15th in the BIG EAST. Sophomore Deonta Vaughn and senior Marvin Gentry are carrying the load for Cincinnati, accounting for 60 percent of UC's 3-pointers (69-of-177) on .390 shooting. The rest of the team is 46-of-179 (.257).


BACK ON TRACK: After scoring a combined 13 points vs. UAB and Illinois State, sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn has found his scoring touch, notching 181 points (18.1 ppg) in his last 10 starts. His 14 points vs. Pittsburgh were his 10th straight and 15th overall double-digit scoring performance of the season. Vaughn leads the team and is eighth in the BIG EAST in overall scoring with 16.7 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 an early season slump and has scored 118 points (10.7 ppg) and pulled down 64 rebounds over the 11 games. 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 9.8 points per game.


EUROPEAN IMPACT: Senior center Adam Hrycaniuk (pronounced hu-RITZ-a-nyuk), a native of Poland who made an immediate impact on the Bearcats offensively in the non-conference season, has struggled as of late. After having to sit out last year due to NCAA clearance issues, Hrycaniuk jumped into the line-up for UC at the beginning of the season and became an offensive threat, scoring 10.5 points per game in non-conference action. Since the start of BIG EAST play, the 6-foot-10 post player has struggled finding his touch, scoring just 4.5 points per game on 9-of-29 shooting (.310). In the Bearcats last game vs. Pittsburgh, Hrycaniuk started to show signs of breaking out of the slump as he scored 12 points, his first double-digit scoring night since NC State on Dec. 23. He helped UC break a 40-40 tie with the Panthers as he scored a pair of tip-ins during the Bearcats 13-0 run midway through the game. Regardless of his offense, Hrycaniuk has not let his shooting interfere with his rebounding as he is the team's second-leading rebounder with 5.5 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 18 games and starting 12 this season, Bishop has scored in double digits four times, including an 11-point outburst in the Bearcats upset of Pittsburgh. Since breaking out of a mini-slump vs. Memphis with nine points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals, Bishop is averaging 5.9 points per game. Not only has he provided offensive punch, he has also added 3.6 rebounds and is third on the team with 31 assists. Thanks to his gritty play against Villanova and Pittsburgh. Bishop endeared himself even more to the fans of Cincinnati. Not having scored a basket or made a rebound vs. the Wildcats in the first 39 minutes of the game, Bishop made the biggest play of the game with 22 seconds remaining, burying a 3-pointer to put Cincinnati back on top, 68-66. He followed that up the last game vs. Pittsburgh as he blocked one of two game-tying 3-point attempts by the Panthers in a 62-59 victory.


WHEN YOU NEED IT MOST: Senior center Adam Hrycaniuk has been clutch for the Bearcats late in games, converting 10-of-12 free throws (.833) in the last three minutes of games determined by 10 points or less. As a team, the Bearcats are shooting .734 (47-of-64) from the line down the stretch of close games.


VAUGHN BIG EAST PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn was named the BIG EAST Conference's Player of the Week, leading UC to a sweep of Syracuse, 74-66, and No. 19/17 Villanova, 69-66 the week of Jan. 7-13. Vaughn accounted for 37.7 percent of UC's points, posting 29 against Syracuse and 25 vs. Villanova. Vaughn joins former UC forward Eric Hicks as the only two Bearcats to earn the weekly award. Hicks earned the honor the week of Jan. 9 during the 2005-06 season, Cincinnati's first in the BIG EAST Conference.


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 or transferred in 16 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 as they have averaged 16.7 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. Freshman Rashad Bishop leads the way offensively, scoring 5.8 points a night.


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 ADD TRANSFER FOR 2008-09: The Bearcats added 6-7 wing Nick Aldridge, a transfer from Western Carolina University, to the roster as a non-scholarship player following the holiday break. Aldridge joins the program as a sophomore after competing in five games at Western Carolina this season where he averaged 18.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists. Aldridge will sit out the remainder of this season and be eligible to play as a junior for the Bearcats after the 2008 fall quarter. Last year, he was the Catamounts' leading scorer putting up 18.3 points and pulling down 7.0 rebounds a game. In his college career, Aldridge has notched 10 20-plus point games including two 30-plus outings. Aldridge, a native of South Webster, which is located two hours from Cincinnati, led his high school to a 27-6 record and the Ohio Division IV state championship as a senior in 2005-06, putting up 34 points in the championship game. He finished his high school career with 2,011 points, making him one of 37 players in Ohio high school basketball history to score more than 2,000 points.


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: The Bearcats hit the road following Connecticut for a pair of road games at Seton Hall on Sunday, Jan. 27 at Noon before they have a quick turnaround and play at West Virginia on Jan. 30 at 7 p.m.