Bearcats Close out First Half of BIG EAST in Morgantown|
Jan. 30, 2008
The Cincinnati Bearcats (9-11, 4-4 BIG EAST) close out the first half of its BIG EAST season Wednesday, Jan. 30 in Morgantown as they take on West Virginia University (15-5, 4-3 BIG EAST). The game can been seen nationally on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. UC is looking to end a two-game losing skid that has been determined by a total of four points, losing to Connecticut, 84-83, and at Seton Hall, 64-61. West Virginia comes into the match-up a winner of four of its last five contests, but dropped its last game on Saturday to Georgetown, 58-57.
FAMILIAR FACES: Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin and West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins have a history together as Cronin started his college coaching career as a video coordinator at UC under Huggins in 1996-97. After one year, Cronin was promoted to assistant coach, a position he held for the next four years. During that time, Cincinnati posted a record of 108-26 (.806) and went to four NCAA Tournaments. After UC, Cronin went on to be the associate head coach at Louisville under Rick Pitino for two years before taking his first head coaching job at Murray State. Cronin is 1-2 vs. Pitino, including a 58-57 victory earlier this year, and a win against WVU would even his career record vs. his mentors.
SCOUTING THE MOUTAINEERS: Despite a 58-57 loss to Georgetown last Saturday, West Virginia is one of the BIG EAST's hottest teams, having won five of their last seven games. The Mountaineers are 15-5 on the season and are beating their opponents by an average margin of 17.6 points - tops in the BIG EAST. WVU has four players averaging 11 points or better, including the team's leading scorer Alex Ruoff at 15.7 points per game. He is trailed closely by Joe Alexander at 15.0. Alexander and D'Sean Butler are the Moutaineers leading rebounders, each pulling down 5.7 rebounds per game. Defensively, West Virginia ranks third in the BIG EAST in overall scoring defense, allowing 60.6 points per game as they have allowed opponents to shoot .397 from the field and own +2.3 rebounds margin per game. Cincinnati will have to work hard to force turnovers in the game as WVU leads the conference in assists-to-turnover margin (1.48) and turnover margin (+6.55).
BEARCATS IN THE BIG EAST: Since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 2005-06, Cincinnati owns an overall record of 14-26 in league play, including 3-17 away from Fifth Third Arena. The Bearcats have won five of their last 10 BIG EAST games, dating back to last season's 70-67 overtime win over Seton Hall in the home finale. The Bearcats picked up their first BIG EAST road win under head coach Mick Cronin earlier this season, picking off Louisville, 58-57, in Freedom Hall.
TAKING CARE OF THE BALL: Cincinnati has done a much better job taking care of the basketball in its last three BIG EAST Conference games, despite a 1-2 record. In its first five league games, the Bearcats were coughing up the basketball an average of 16.6 times per game, a number they have slimmed to 11.0 in it their last three games. The 11 turnovers in each of the last three games equals the second-lowest total of the year, one short of 10 vs. Coastal Carolina on Nov. 16. For the season, Cincinnati is averaging 14.1 turnovers per game.
500-POINT MAN: Sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn needs 150 points to become the 32nd player in Cincinnati history to record 500 points or more in a season. He would be the first Bearcats' basketball player to do so since James White and Eric Hicks each topped the mark in 2005-06. The top three single seasons in the program's history belong to College Basketball's Player of the Century Oscar Robertson who scored over 900 points in three straight seasons (1957-60).
LIFE'S TOUGHER ON THE ROAD: After picking up their first road win of the season at Louisville on New Year's Day, the Cincinnati Bearcats have dropped three straight away from Fifth Third Arena since and are 1-7 on the road this season. Offensively, sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn, scores 7.5 fewer points away from Cincinnati mainly due to his 3-point shooting which drops from .446 (41-of-92) at home to .319 (15-of-47) on the road .
SO CLOSE: In the Bearcats' last two losses vs. Connecticut and at Seton Hall, Cincinnati has lost by a combined four points and has had the ball in the hands of sophomore Deonta Vaughn for the last possession in each game. Vaughn had the ball stripped away at the end of the UConn game before he could shoot it, down 84-83, but he regained control and passed the ball to senior Marcus Sikes for the final attempt which missed. Against Seton Hall, Vaughn caught the in bounds pass with less than five seconds remaining and heaved a half-court shot as time expired in a 64-61 loss.
30/30 MAN: One of the primary keys to the Bearcats success this season in BIG EAST play and overall has been the offensive play of sophomore point guard Deonta Vaughn. Against Connecticut on Wednesday, Vaughn posted his second 30-point game of the season and the third of his career, scoring 34 points on just 14 shots. Vaughn, the BIG EAST Player of the Week earlier this season (Jan. 7-13) has exploded during conference play, averaging 21.3 points per game despite 10 and 14 point scoring performances vs. Notre Dame and Pittsburgh, respectively. Vaughn's other 30-point game this season came against Coastal Carolina on Nov. 16 as he scored a career-high 36 points and knocked down nine 3-pointers - one short of tying the school's single-game record held by Melvin Levitt (vs. Eastern Kentucky, 1997-98). Vaughn is the first UC player to post two or more 30-point games in the same season since Leonard Stokes also had two in 2002-03 vs. Tulane (Jan. 17, 2003) and Louisville (Feb. 22, 2003).
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 and this season has averaged 7.3 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 .557 (44-of-79) from the field and .488 (20-of-41) from behind the 3-point arc. Against Connecticut last Wednesday, Vaughn almost single-handedly pulled the game out for UC, going a perfect 3-for-3 from behind the 3-point line and 4-for-4 from the free-throw line for 13 points in the final 10 minutes. He followed up at Seton Hall with another nine points.
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 .413 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 losses, Cincinnati's defense is allowing its opponents to score on .472 of their shots, leading to 75.2 points per game - a difference of 15.0 points per game.
COMING OF AGE: UC's six-man freshman class has been coming on as of late and adjusting to play in the BIG EAST Conference. After scoring a combined 45 points in the first four league games (11.3 ppg), the sextet has posted 93 points in the last four games (23.3 ppg), including a season-high 33 points by the group at Notre Dame and 26 vs. Connecticut. Freshman Rashad Bishop, who had the game-deciding 3-pointer vs. Villanova, is the team's third-leading scorer over the last four games, putting in 7.0 points a game. Alvin Mitchell, who had scored 21 points in his first 13 games as a Bearcat has doubled his point total for the year in the last five games, pouring in 28 points, including all five of his 3-point baskets (5-for-27) this year.
SHOWING HIS "WILL": Senior forward John Williamson was one of Cincinnati's most active players at Seton Hall, scoring nine points in 12 minutes of play. Six of his nine points came in the first nine minutes of the first half before he suffered an injury that sidelined him the rest of the opening period. Williamson returned for three minutes in the second half before having to sit due to foul trouble. Williamson is UC's second-leading scorer, averaging 9.6 points per game, and top rebounder (6.1 rpg).
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 20.5 points per night in the league, while Williamson has improved his scoring average from 9.3 in non-conference play to 10.1 in the BIG EAST. On the defensive side of the ball, senior guard Jamual Warren has given UC a new presence on the glass, tying John Williamson for the team lead in conference play with 5.0 caroms a game. Warren also leads the team in assists (40), steals (11) and assists-to-turnover ratio at 2.00 in league play.
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, on Jan. 19. UC rounded out the trio on Wednesday vs. Connecticut before finishing up the first half of the BIG EAST schedule at Seton Hall 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.
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 10 minutes or more a night. That depth played a big part in UC's last five games as the Bearcats have outscored the opposition's bench 199-59, including a 23-2 advantage vs. Syracuse and a 40-16 vs. Notre Dame. On average, the Bearcats are getting 18.5 points per game from their reserves, led by senior Marvin Gentry and freshman Larry Davis, who are averaging 6.1 and 3.6 points per game, respectively, off the bench.
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. Until the loss to UConn, the Bearcats were undefeated, at 8-0 this season, and are 17-3 in Cronin's time at Cincinnati when leading with five minutes remaining in the game.
IN THE LAST FIVE GAMES: The Bearcats are 2-3 in BIG EAST play and 2-1 at home ... senior guard Deonta Vaughn has scored in double figures five times and leads the team with 19.6 points per game ... Vaughn is one of seven players averaging five or more points per game ... UC is shooting 44.8 percent from the field (125-of-279), including 33.7 percent (34-of-101) from behind the 3-point line ... Vaughn has knocked down 14 treys and is shooting 35.9 percent from behind the line ... as a team, UC is shooting .625 from the free-throw line, led by Vaughn at .813 (26-of-32) ... point guard Jamual Warren and Vaughn are first and second on the team in assists with 22 and 21, respectively ... senior forwards John Williamson and senior center Adam Hrycaniuk lead the team in rebounds (5.4) followed by senior guard Jamual Warren (4.8) ... Cincinnati's opponents have made 101 free throws, while UC has attempted 104 shots from the charity stripe.
TAKING THE POINT: Senior guard Jamual Warren can play different roles for the Bearcats depending on what the team needs each night. 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 and carry UC to a 56-50 victory. 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. Miami. At Louisville, he took on a completely different role as a rebounder and to distribute the ball. Since the start of BIG EAST play, Warren has settled in as the team's primary point guard and is averaging 4.5 points, 5.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game.
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 fifth in the league in assists (5.00 apg) and is eighth with a 2.00 assist/turnover ratio (40 assists/20 turnovers).
BEHIND THE LINE: The Bearcats are shooting .332 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 almost 60 percent of UC's 3-pointers (79-of-133) on .408 shooting. The rest of the team is 54-of-202 (.267).
BACK ON TRACK: After scoring a combined 13 points vs. UAB and Illinois State, sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn has found his scoring touch, notching 230 points (19.2 ppg) in his last 11 starts. His 15 points at Seton Hall were his 12th straight and 17th overall double-digit scoring performance in 20 games this season. Vaughn leads the team and is sixth in the BIG EAST in overall scoring with 17.5 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 5.1 points per game on 15-of-43 shooting (.349). In the Bearcats' last three games, Hrycaniuk started to show signs of breaking out of the slump as he scored 12 points vs. Pittsburgh, his first double-digit scoring night since NC State on Dec. 23 and is averaging 8.7 points in the contests. Regardless of his offense, Hrycaniuk has not let his shooting interfere with his rebounding as he is the team's second-leading rebounder with 5.3 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 20 games and starting 14 this season, Bishop has scored in double digits four times, including an 11-point outburst in the Bearcats' upset of Pittsburgh. Not only has he provided offensive punch, he has also added 3.6 rebounds and is third on the team with 32 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 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 .714 (50-of-70) 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 17.1 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. Freshman Rashad Bishop leads the way offensively, scoring 5.7 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: Cincinnati returns home for its "Ring of Red" game on Saturday, Feb. 2 vs. No. 17/16 Marquette at Noon. The game will be aired as part of the BIG EAST ESPN Regional package on CinCW in Cincinnati. Fans are being asked to wear red to the game to show their support of the Bearcats. In last season's "Ring of Red" game, Cincinnati knocked off West Virginia, 96-83, in overtime as Marvin Gentry scored a career-high 32 points and led UC back from a 17-point deficit.