Bearcats Travel to Rutgers for BIG EAST Contest

Feb. 8, 2008

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The Cincinnati Bearcats (10-12, 5-5 BIG EAST) return to action after a seven-day break and travel to Rutgers University (10-14, 2-9 BIG EAST) on Saturday, Feb. 9 for a 6 p.m. tip. Both teams are coming off losses in their last games and are 1-3 in their last four games. UC dropped its last outing, 75-60, last Saturday vs. Marquette at Fifth Third Arena while Rutgers lost to St. John's on Wednesday, 52-45. Sophomore Deonta Vaughn led the Bearcats in scoring vs. the Golden Eagles with 23 points and Adam Hrycaniuk pulled down a team-high nine rebounds.


SHOWING THEIR STRENGTH ... OF SCHEDULE: Before the season even began, head coach Mick Cronin knew he had a young squad with six freshmen and just 14 combined years of Division I college experience. The team would have to learn quickly as it had one of the nation's top non-conference schedules as well as the full BIG EAST slate. After getting through the month of Dec. with 5-7 non-conference mark and a strength of schedule (SOS) ranked No. 196, the Bearcats saw their SOS rating skyrocket in January as they picked up wins over Louisville, Syracuse, Villanova, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia. After games played on Feb. 7, the Bearcats own the nation's fourth-toughest strength of schedule, trailing Arizona, Tennessee, and Michigan.


Cincinnati at Rutgers


SCOUTING THE SCARLET KNIGHTS: The Scarlet Knights' Fred Hill joined UC's Mick Cronin last season as rookie head coaches in the BIG EAST and both endured growing pains with their new programs. Rutgers returns three starters from last year's squad that finished 10-19 overall and 3-13 in the BIG EAST.

      Rutgers has lost three consecutive games entering Saturday's contest vs. Cincinnati. Most recently, the Scarlet Knights fell to St. John's, 52-45, at home on Wednesday night.  Freshman guards Mike Coburn and Corey Chandler led the way for Rutgers, scoring 11 and nine points, respectively.

      Junior forward JR Inman is averaging a team-best 13.3 points per game this season (19th in the BIG EAST), and is 12th in the league with 7.6 rebounds per game. Chandler is second on the team in scoring (12.4 ppg; 28th in BIG EAST) and eighth in the conference in steals (1.76 per game).

      Hill is 20-33 in his career and is 1-0 vs. Cincinnati.


BEARCATS IN THE BIG EAST: Since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 2005-06, Cincinnati owns an overall record of 15-27 in league play, including 4-17 record away from Fifth Third Arena. The Bearcats are 6-6 in their last 12 BIG EAST games, dating back to last season's 70-67 overtime win over Seton Hall in the home finale. UC head coach Mick Cronin picked up his first and second BIG EAST road wins this season, picking off his mentors - Rick Pitino at Louisville, 58-57, and Bob Huggins at West Virginia, 62-39. Cincinnati's win at West Virginia on Jan. 30 is Cincinnati's largest margin of victory in a BIG EAST game.


Overall Record:           15-27 (7-19 under Cronin)

Home:                         11-10 (5-8 under Cronin)

Away:                          4-17 (2-11 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:         23 (62-39) at West Virginia, 1/30/08


CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: Since the start of BIG EAST Conference play, Cincinnati has played fives games decided by five points or less and own a record of 3-2 in those contests. The Bearcats won their first three, knocking off Louisville (Jan. 1) by one point and Villanova (Jan. 12) and Pittsburgh (Jan. 19) by three. Since then, UC has dropped its last two close games vs. Connecticut (Jan. 23) and at Seton Hall (Jan. 27) by a combined four points. Overall, Cincinnati is 5-4 on the season in games decided by five points or less and 6-9 in Mick Cronin's two seasons at UC.


NO LOVE FOR UC IN FEBRUARY: In the Bearcats' three seasons in the BIG EAST, the month of February has been difficult as they have posted a record of 4-12 (.250) in conference action.  In comparison, Cincinnati is 10-15 (.400) in the month of January after going 5-4 last month. Despite the record, senior forward John Williamson and sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn both had one of their most productive months of their career last year in February as the pair averaged 16.5 and 15.3 points per game, respectively. Vaughn opened the month last Saturday with a 23-point outburst vs. Marquette.


DEFENDING THE THREE: Since the start of BIG EAST Conference play, one thing UC has improved immensely has been its ability to defend against the 3-pointer. In conference games, the Bearcats lead the BIG EAST in 3-point shooting defense, allowing opponents to connect on just 27.5 percent (47-of-171) of their attempts. At West Virginia, on Jan. 30, Cincinnati held the Mountaineers to just one 3-point basketball in 22 attempts, the fewest treys in a game by a UC opponent since holding cross-town rival Xavier to 1-of-18 shooting on Jan. 19, 2006. In the last game vs. Marquette, the Bearcats held the Golden Eagles to 4-of-19 (.211) from behind the line in a 75-60 loss.


                                                   Non-Conference              Conference

Opponent 3-pt Made (per game)                                       85 (7.1)      47 (4.7)

Opponent 3-pt Attempts (per game)                                 245 (20.4)  171 (17.1)

Opponent 3-pt Pct.                     .347                                .275


PLAY DEFENSE AND REBOUND: UC basketball has built its success over the last 20 years on two core values ... defense and rebounding. Head coach Mick Cronin learned it as an assistant at UC and those same values hold true for this year's squad as well. The Bearcats own records of 6-0 when holding opponents to 60 points or less and 8-5 when winning the rebounding margin.


DOMINATING DEFENSE: UC's 23-point victory at West Virginia took on historic proportions as Cincinnati held West Virginia to 20 percent (10-of-50) from the field, the lowest shooting percentage in WVU history. The Mountaineers' 10 field goals also tied the UC record for the fewest shots made by an opponent, equaling games vs. North Texas State (1960-61), Miami (OH) (1961-62), and Kentucky (1983-84).


BOUNCING BACK ON THE BOARDS: After being out-rebounded in back-to-back games to start the BIG EAST season at Louisville and St. John's, UC has since owned the glass, posting a 36.2-32.5 advantage on average.  At West Virginia on Jan. 30, the Bearcats posted their second-most rebounds in Mick Cronin's year and a half as head coach, ripping away 47 boards compared to West Virginia's 26, a 21-rebound edge. In the last eight games, five UC players are averaging three or more rebounds, led by senior guard Jamual Warren's 5.4 a night.


TAKING CARE OF THE BALL: Cincinnati has done a much better job taking care of the basketball in its last five BIG EAST Conference games.  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 11.4 in their last five contests. For the season, Cincinnati is averaging 13.9 turnovers per game.


SIKE-S: Senior forward Marcus Sikes, who was a regular in the Bearcats' lineup last season, has transitioned to coming off the bench this season and has needed time to adjust. In the last three games, Sikes has been major contributor for UC off the bench as he has averaged 3.3 points and 7.0 rebounds, including a career-high 12 boards at West Virginia. The 6-8 native of Richmond, Va., has also begun to find his shooting touch. After leading the team in 3-point shooting at 42.5 percent last season, Sikes has connected on 22.2 percent (10-of-45) this season, including two of his last six attempts.


THE OTHER Larry Davis: Freshman guard Larry Davis, who has the same name as UC's associate head coach, has started to become a scorer for UC in his last five BIG EAST games. After being held scoreless in five straight appearances from Dec. 29-Jan. 9, Davis has scored 28 points in 50 minutes over his last six contests. Eighteen of the points have come from behind the arc where he has connected on 6-of-13 (.462).


500-POINT MAN: Sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn needs 109 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).


BEARCATS TOUGH IN FIFTH THIRD ARENA:  Cincinnati is in its 19th season in Fifth Third Arena at Shoemaker Center with a 253-48 record, a .841 winning percentage.  UC is 88-25 in Fifth Third over the last six seasons, including an 8-5 mark this season. In two years at Cincinnati, Mick Cronin is 18-13 at home.


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 dropped three straight away from Fifth Third Arena before ending the streak at WVU on Jan. 30. UC is 2-7 overall on the road this season. Sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn, scores 7.1 fewer points away from Cincinnati mainly due to his 3-point shooting which drops from .436 (44-of-104) at home to .345 (19-of-55) on the road .


Category                                  Home             Away

Scoring Offense                           68.7               61.7

Scoring Defense                          67.5               67.2

Field Goal Pct.                              42.6               41.6

Field Goal Percentage Defense    43.3               41.9

3-Point FG Pct.                             33.9               32.8

3-Point FG Defense                      32.2               31.0

Rebounding Margin                      +3.6               +1.2


30/30 MAN: One of the primary keys to the Bearcats success this season has been the offensive play of sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn. Against Connecticut, 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 20.5 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 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 .540 (47-of-87) from the field and .465 (20-of-43) from behind the 3-point arc. Against Connecticut, 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.


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 10 wins, the team is shooting .445 from the field compared to .405 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 .378 shooting from the field and 58.1 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 17.1 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 127 points in the last six games (21.7 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 five games, putting in 5.5 points a game. Alvin Mitchell, who had scored 21 points in his first 13 games as a Bearcat has almost doubled his point total for the year in the last seven games, pouring in 39 points, including all six of his 3-point baskets.


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 9.9 in the BIG EAST. On the defensive side of the ball, senior guard Jamual Warren has given UC a new presence on the glass, leading the team with 5.3 caroms per conference game. Warren also leads the team in assists (50), steals (14) and assists-to-turnover ratio at 2.08 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. Connecticut and Marquette 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 nine deep playing 10 minutes or more a night. That depth played a big part in UC's last six games as the Bearcats have outscored the opposition's bench 178-89, 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 5.7 and 3.7 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. UC is 18-3 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 1-1 on the road ... senior guard Deonta Vaughn has scored in double figures five times and leads the team with 20.8 points per game ... Vaughn is one of six players averaging five or more points per game ... UC is shooting 43.6 percent from the field (115-of-264), including 37.0 percent (37-of-100) from behind the 3-point line ... Vaughn has knocked down 24 treys and is shooting 42.1 percent from behind the line ... as a team, UC is shooting .663 from the free-throw line, led by Vaughn at .857 (24-of-28) ... point guards Jamual Warren and Vaughn are first and second on the team in assists with 26 and 15, respectively ... Warren leads the team with an average of 5.2 boards a night ... Cincinnati's opponents have made 96 free throws, while UC has attempted 92 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 5.3 points, 5.0 assists and 5.3 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 is tied for sixth in the league in assists (5.00 apg) and assist/turnover ratio (2.08).


BEHIND THE LINE: The Bearcats are shooting .337 from behind the 3-point line this season, ranking 14th 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 (87-of-222) on .392 shooting. The rest of the team is 63-of-226 (.279).


BACK ON TRACK: After scoring a combined 13 points vs. UAB and Illinois State, sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn has found his scoring touch, averaging 20.1 ppg in his last 13 starts. His 23 points vs. Marquette were his 14th straight and 19th overall double-digit scoring performance in 22 games this season. Vaughn leads the team and is fifth in the BIG EAST in scoring with 17.8 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 at times in BIG EAST play. 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 4.3 points per game on 16-of-50 shooting (.320). 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, including a team-high nine in his last game vs. Marquette.


BISHOP TAKES QUEEN (CITY): Freshman forward/guard Rashad Bishop has quickly become one of the Bearcats' top all-around newcomers. Appearing in all 22 games and starting 15 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 3.5 rebounds and is third on the team with 34 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, 9.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. Freshman Rashad Bishop leads the way offensively, scoring 5.4 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.


MARCH OF DIMES MADNESS: The University of Cincinnati is proud to partner with the March of Dimes to bring UC basketball fans the March of Dimes Madness. When the Cincinnati Bearcats men's basketball team takes on the Providence Friars on Sunday, March 2, Bearcats' Athletics will donate $5 to the March of Dimes for every ticket sold through this promotional offer.

      The March of Dimes mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. This mission is carried out through research, community services, education, and advocacy to save babies' lives.

      In order to take advantage of the promotional ticket rate and have $5 contributed to the March of Dimes for each ticket, fans should visit www.marchofdimes/ohio for purchase information or call the UC Athletic Ticket Office at (513) 556-2287 or 1-877-CATS-TIX.


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 return home for the first of their final four home games vs. St. John's on Wednesday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. The game will be televised live on ESPN2. The game will be the second meeting between the two this season. The Red Storm took the first game on Jan. 5, 70-58, in Queens, N.Y., despite 24 points from Deonta Vaughn and 12 from John Williamson.