Men's Basketball Heads to Pittsburgh to Face No. 4/4 Panthers

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Men's Basketball |

Feb. 12, 2009

GAME 26: Cincinnati AT No. 4/4 pittsburgh

Saturday, Feb. 14 l 4 p.m. EST l Petersen Events Center (12,500) l Pittsburgh, Pa. l ESPN


 

 

 

HE MATCH-UP

The Cincinnati Bearcats (17-8, 7-5 BIG EAST) hit the road for a crucial BIG EAST Conference tilt with No. 4/4 Pittsburgh (22-2/9-2 BIG EAST) at the Petersen Events Center at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 14. After meeting three times last season, this will be the lone regular-season meeting between the Bearcats and Panthers this year. The game will be televised on ESPN with Sean McDonough handling the play-by-play and Bob Wenzel providing analysis. Cincinnati, winners of seven it of its last nine games, is coming off a 71-61 win vs. St. John's on Wednesday, Feb. 11. Pittsburgh has won six of its last seven contests, including a 70-59 win over West Virginia on Monday.

 

THE SERIES

Saturday's meeting with Pittsburgh will be the 13th between the two schools. Cincinnati owns a 7-5 edge in the series, but the Panthers have won four of the last five, including a 70-64 decision in the quartefinals of the 2008 BIG EAST Conference Tournament.  The last three meetings between UC and Pitt have been decided by six points or less. Junior guard Deonta Vaughn is the Bearcats' top scorer vs. Pittsburgh, averaging 20.3 ppg in four career starts.

 

SCOUTING PITTSBURGH

The Panthers own a record of 22-2 overall and 9-2 in the BIG EAST Conference.

Pittsburgh enters the game as the No. 4 ranked team in both the Associated Press Poll and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll.

The Panthers have won six of their last seven games, including a 70-59 decision vs. West Virginia on Monday.

The Petersen Events Center is one of the toughest venues for a visiting team to earn a road win as Pitt is 15-0 at home this season. Overall Pitt is 111-10 (.917) all-time and 45-9 (.833) in BIG EAST contests in the Petsersen Events Center.

The Panthers ranked fifth in the nation in scoring margin (+16.4) and second in rebounding margin (+9.9).

Sam Young is Pittsburgh's leading scorer, ranking seventh in the BIG EAST with 17.9 points a game. Young joins DeJuan Blair (15.3), and Levance Fields (11.1) as one of three players on the team averaging 10 or more points this season.

Along with his 15.3 ppg, Blair averages 12.6 rebounds per game, which ranks second in the BIG EAST. Blair has 15 double-doubles this season, which ranks fourth nationally.

Fields is the floor general for the Panthers and averages 7.4 assists per game, ranking first in the conference. Field also ranks first in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.87), dishing out 178 assists, while committing just 46 turnovers.

Pitt's 18.2 assists per game ranks fourth nationally and its assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.55 is second in the country.

 

ST. JOHN'S GAME NOTES - FEB. 11

Cincinnati held off the Red Storm with a 71-61 win, improving the series to 5-5 and pushing UC's streak to three wins over St. John's.

Cincinnati shot 62.8 percent from the floor, the first time the Bearcats have shot above 60 percent since firing at a 61.2 percent clip against TCU on Feb. 26, 2005.

UC improved to 11-0 on the season when leading at the half.

St. John's outscored the Bearcats 17-5 in points off turnovers and 15-6 in second-chance points.

UC's lead reached as many as 18 points, 66-48, with 7:27 to play, before St. John's went on an 11-0 run over the next 2:55 to cut its deficit to 66-59 with 3:30 remaining.

The Bearcats outscored St. John's 16-6 in first-half bench points. For the game, UC outscored the Red Storm 33-19 in bench points.

Cincinnati shot 66.7 percent from the field (16-of-24) in the first half, compared to 28.1 percent (9-of-32) for the Red Storm. UC's first-half field goal percentage is its highest field goal percentage in any half this season.

A fastbreak lay-up by freshman Dion Dixon with two seconds on the clock in the first half capped off an 8-2 UC run over the final 2:02 giving the Bearcats a 39-22 lead entering intermission. Cincinnati's 39 first-half points are its most in the opening 20 minutes in BIG EAST action.

St. John's went scoreless from the field in the 4:21 of the game and UC hit four of its first seven shots to take an 8-1 advantage at the 15:39 mark of the first half.

Freshman Yancy Gates finished with a season-high 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field, Gates' first 20-plus point effort of the season.

Mike Williams scored 12 points and pulled down nine rebounds, his most productive rebounding game since 16 boards against Eastern Kentucky on Dec. 20.

After scoring one point in his previous three games, sophomore Rashad Bishop scored seven points.

Vaughn and Gates scored 12 points and 10 points, respectively, in the first half for UC, marking the first time since Jan. 10 vs. Connecticut that two Cincinnati players scored 10-plus points in the opening 20 minutes.

Vaughn finished the game with 14 points.

Freshman Dion Dixon scored 10 points and matched a career-high with five assists (set against Texas Southern, Nov. 18, 2008).

 

"D" THE THREE:

In the past five games, Cincinnati has gone 4-1 and one of the reasons for its success has been its ability to defend the 3-pointer.

In their first seven league games, opponents shot .425 from deep, connecting on 54-of-127 long-range attempts.

In the past five contests, UC has held Notre Dame, Villanova, and Georgetown to a combined 20-of-75 from behind the arc (.267).

Notre Dame, Villanova, and Georgetown are ranked in the top eight in the BIG EAST in 3-point field goal percentage and the Irish's three made 3-pointers were a season-low for Notre Dame.

Notre Dame's Kyle McAlarney, who was leading the BIG EAST in 3-pointers made per game (4.05) and was third in 3-point percentage (.458) heading into his match-up with UC, went  0-for-5 from three and 2-for-12 from the field.

 

REVERSAL OF FORTUNE

Cincinnati has been in the middle of the pack in most BIG EAST statistics this season in overall and conference-only contests.

After starting out 0-3 in conference action, UC has won seven of its last nine games.

In the first three conference games, junior Deonta Vaughn averaged 13.0 ppg, and shot 30-percent from behind-the-arc. Over the last nine games, Vaughn is averaging 18.1 ppg and is shooting 36.4 percent from deep.

Freshman Yancy Gates has established himself in the post over the last nine games as his scoring average went from 10.0 ppg over the first three league games to 11.3 over the last nine. Gates is also averaging 1.0 bpg over the last nine games after having just one total block in the first three league contests.

Another telling stat for UC is during its first three conference opponents, the Bearcats went to the line just over 11 times per game on average. Since the loss to Connecticut on Jan. 10, Cincinnati is averaging just under 20 free throw attempts per game.

Below is a comparison of how UC ranks among BIG EAST leaders in overall games, conference-only games, and its last nine games, in key statistical categories:

 

Category  Overall   Conf. Last Nine

Scoring Defense 64.6 (7) 69.3 (6) 64.4 (3)

Scoring Margin +5.4 (10) -2.0 (9) +3.0 (8)

FG Pct. Defense .405 (6) .450 (11) .418 (4)

3-Pt. Percentage .342 (7) .345 (8) .364 (3)

3-Pt. Perc. Defense .323 (9) .366 (14)                 .283 (3)

Blocked Shots 3.32 (13) 2.75 (15) 3.11 (13)

Steals     6.08 (13) 5.8 (13) 6.5 (10)

Turnover Margin -0.88 (13) -0.25 (t-8)              +0.11 (7)

3FG Made  7.28 (4) 6.7 (t-5) 7.00 (t-4)

 

CLASSIC TRIO

In Cincinnati's win over St. John's, freshman Yancy Gates scored 21 points, junior Deonta Vaughn scored 14, and senior Mike Williams added 12 points, marking the fifth time this season that all three players have scored 10-plus points in a game.

UC is 4-1 in the games where Gates, Vaughn, and Williams score in double-figures, as the trio scored 10-plus points apiece vs. UAB (Dec. 6), Eastern Kentucky (Dec. 20), Connecticut (Jan. 10), Georgetown (Feb. 7), and St. John's (Feb. 11) .

In those five games, Vaughn is averaging 17.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg, and 5.4 apg. Gates is averaging 14.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg, while Williams is scoring 13.4 ppg and grabbing 8.4 rpg.

 

BEARCATS SHOOT LIGHTS OUT VS. RED STORM

Against St. John's on Feb. 11, Cincinnati shot 62.6 percent from the field for the game, its highest shooting percentage this season.

It is also the highest shooting percentage for a UC team under the direction of Mick Cronin.

The last time Cincinnati shot over 60 percent in a game was vs. TCU on Feb. 26, 2005, when the Bearcats shot 61.2 percent.

 

DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME ...

In the final six games of the regular season, the Bearcats will face three teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25, including Top 10 opponents No. 4 Pittsburgh (Feb. 14) and No. 5 Louisville (Feb. 21).

Of the six remaining teams on UC's schedule all but one own a winning record (USF - 8-15) and they have a combined mark of 96-45 (.681).

Cincinnati is currently 49th in the RPI Ratings and owns the nation's 33rd toughest schedule.

UC is 1-3 vs. ranked teams in the AP poll and 1-5 vs. teams ranked in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll. Its one win in both polls came in a 65-57 decision vs. Georgetown on Jan. 28.

                                                   

GATES NAMED BIG EAST ROOKIE OF THE WEEK

After helping the University of Cincinnati men's basketball team to a 93-83 victory over Notre Dame and a 64-62 overtime triumph over Georgetown last week, freshman Yancy Gates was named the BIG EAST Rookie of the Week

Gates becomes one of four BIG EAST freshmen to win Rookie of the Week honors multiple times this season, joining Louisville's Samardo Samuels, Georgetown's Greg Monroe, and Rutgers' Mike Rosario.

The Cincinnati native averaged 13.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, and shot 52.4 percent from the field last week, while also averaging 1.5 blocks per game and 1.0 steal per contest.

Against Notre Dame, Gates scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 21 minutes of action, before scoring 11 points and corralling eight rebounds at Georgetown.

 

BIG (EAST) TURNAROUND

Looking at the Bearcats statistically, UC has played two completely different segments of the BIG EAST schedule. UC started off the New Year losing its first three BIG EAST games by an average of 17.0 points per game.

In the nine games since, the Bearcats have won seven thanks to a much improved defense that is holding opponents to 64.4 points per game, 19.6 points fewer per outing than the first three conference games (84.0 ppg).

 

DYNAMIC DAVIS

Sophomore Larry Davis had been struggling to find his shot the seven games prior to the Notre Dame game on Feb. 4, scoring 19 combined points.

In his last three outings, Davis has scored 37 points, third-most on the team.

Against Notre Dame, Davis went 8-of-14 from the field and scored a career-high 21 points.

Davis' previous career high was 16 points against Providence on March 2, 2008.

In the Bearcats' 64-62 come-from-behind win at Georgetown, he scored all 11 of his points in the second half, including three 3-pointers.

 

FAMILIAR FACES

As part of the BIG EAST's 18-game league schedule, Cincinnati faced Providence, St. John's, and Georgetown each in a home-and-home series this season.

Five games into the BIG EAST schedule, the Bearcats finished their season series with Providence, losing twice to the Friars within 10 days -- 87-79 on Jan. 7 and 72-63 on Jan. 17.

The Bearcats went 4-2 vs. teams in their pod, including a sweep of Georgetown.

 

GROWING UP ON THE ROAD

One thing a young team has to learn as it grows up is how to win on the road, especially in conference play. This season, the Bearcats are showing signs of maturing as they are 5-5 overall away from Fifth Third Arena, including 3-3 in BIG EAST play.

Cincinnati's most league victories on the road as a member of the BIG EAST came last season, going 3-6. UC is 8-23 on the road as a member of the BIG EAST.

The Bearcats opened the season with just three road games in their first 14 contests before starting league play on Jan. 4 at Marquette.

Two of the three road games were part of the Global Sports Classic. After playing home games vs. Western Illinois (Nov. 22) and Coastal Carolina (Nov. 24), the Bearcats traveled to Las Vegas for the final two rounds at the Thomas & Mack Center where they faced Florida State (Nov. 28) and UNLV (Nov. 29).

The other lone pre-conference road game was at 2008 NCAA national runner-up Memphis on Dec. 29.

The Bearcats do not find the rims on the road kind as they are shooting 37.2 percent on the road compared to 46.1 percent at home.

UC also has a difficult time with the caroms as opponents hold the Bearcats to 35.0 rebounds per game on the road compared to 40.3 at home.

Junior guard Deonta Vaughn averages just 13.0 points per game away from Fifth Third Arena compared to 17.6 ppg at home and was held scoreless for the first time in his career at Marquette on Jan. 4.

 

FINDING HIS STRIDE

In Cincinnati's last 11 games, freshman guard Dion Dixon has begun find his game and become more at ease vs. BIG EAST competition.

In the 11 games since scoring three points at Marquette on Jan. 4, Dixon is fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 7.9 points, and 2.5 rebounds per contest.

He equaled his career high for scoring at Providence (Jan. 19) with 14 points, including 4-of-8 shooting from 3-point range.

The 14-point output marked his fifth double-digit scoring effort of the season and his first in seven games since posting 11 points at home vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Dec. 22).

Dixon registered his second double-digit scoring game in three outings vs. Georgetown (Jan. 28) with 10 points on three 3-pointers and a free throw. He also added four rebounds.

In his last six games, Dixon is averaging 8.6 ppg, he is shooting 45.5 percent from the field (20-of-44), and 42.9 percent from behind the arc (12-of-28).

 

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