Three games over .500 for the first time in league play since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 2005-06, the Cincinnati Bearcats (13-12, 8-5 BIG EAST) are looking to extend their three-game winning streak at No. 12/11 Georgetown (21-4, 11-3 BIG EAST) this Saturday, Feb. 23. The game will tip at Noon and can be seen as part of the BIG EAST syndication package, including the CinCW in Cincinnati. Mike Gleason will handle the play-by-play on the broadcast, while Mike Jarvis adds color analysis. The Bearcats picked up their 13th win of the season Wednesday night vs. USF in a close, 52-51 victory in which the Bulls had three shots at the end of the game to pull ahead. Cincinnati held Kentrell Gransberry, the league's seventh-leading scorer (16.8 ppg) to seven points, while UC's Deonta Vaughn poured in 21. The Bearcats are in sixth place in the BIG EAST heading into the weekend, one half games back of Marquette for fifth.
A "BIG" EAST IMPROVEMENT: With five games remaining in the BIG EAST schedule, the Bearcats have already shown a six-game improvement in conference wins over last season, going from two victories last season to eight this year. The eight wins equal UC's inaugural BIG EAST season when it went 8-8 in the old 16-game format. The Bearcats' +6-win improvement this season is tied for the ninth-largest single-season turnaround in BIG EAST history with six other teams. Only one of the 15 teams to improve its league record by six or more wins has ever missed making a postseason tournament and that was the 1992-93 Miami Hurricanes, who finished the year 10-17 overall and 7-11 in the BIG EAST. For the list of the biggest one-season improvements in BIG EAST history turn to page 17 of UC's notes.
SCOUTING THE HOYAS: Georgetown enters this weekend's game vs. Cincinnati at 2-2 in its last four games, including three road games at Louisville (L, 59-51), Syracuse (L, 64-62), and Providence (W, 68-58). The Hoyas are 21-4 overall on the season and are tied atop the BIG EAST with Louisville at 11-3 in league action.
Monday, Georgetown won its last outing at Providence, 68-58, on the back of senior center Roy Hibbert's 18-point, eight-rebound performance. Senior guard Jonathan Wallace and sophomore forward DaJuan Summers added double-digit scoring performances of their own, posting 14 and 11 points, respectively. Providence kept the game close by outshooting Georgetown from the field (44.7 to 40.0 percent) and the free-throw line (80.0 to 53.3 percent).
The Hoyas, who average 70.0 points per game, have seven players putting up six or more points a game, led by Hibbert and his 13.3 points per contest. Hibbert also leads the team in shooting percentage (.600, 4th in the BIG EAST), rebounding (6.7, 18th in the BIG EAST), and blocked shots (2.24, 3rd in the BIG EAST). From behind the arc Summers, Georgetown's third-leading scorer (11.2 ppg), is shooting a team-best .431 (50-of-116).
Georgetown head coach John Thompson III, who became the Hoyas head coach in 2004-05, is 3-0 vs. Cincinnati.
BEARCATS IN THE BIG EAST: Since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 2005-06, Cincinnati owns an overall record of 18-27 in league play, including a 5-17 mark away from Fifth Third Arena. With a 62-39 win at West Virginia and a 72-68 overtime victory at Rutgers, the Bearcats have won back-to-back road games in the conference for the first time. UC head coach Mick Cronin picked up his first and second BIG EAST road wins earlier 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: 18-27 (10-19 under Cronin)
Home: 13-10 (7-8 under Cronin)
Away: 5-17 (3-11 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
A SECOND THREAT: Senior forward John Williamson was challenged by head coach Mick Cronin in the Cincinnati Enquirer, before the Rutgers game on Feb. 9, to become a second scoring threat and help sophomore Deonta Vaughn shoulder some of the offensive load. In his three games since, Williamson has met the challenge and exceeded Coach Cronin's goal of 13 to 14 points a night by recording 22 and 25 points in BIG EAST contests vs. Rutgers and St. John's, respectively. Against USF, the Bulls limited Williams to just five points on 2-of-9 shooting and two rebounds. To go along with the 52 points (17.3 ppg) in the last three games, Williamson also has added 6.3 rebounds per game during the stretch.
13 ... AND COUNTING: With the 60-43 victory against St. John's, Cincinnati surpassed its win total from last year when it went 11-19, notching its 12th victory of the year. UC earned the "baker's dozen" Wednesday night vs. USF. The Bearcats have five games remaining in the season, including road games at Georgetown, Pittsburgh, and Connecticut, all who are currently in the top five in the conference. UC's remaining opponents, including Georgetown, have a combined winning percentage of .661 (84-43).
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: Since the start of BIG EAST Conference play, Cincinnati has played seven games decided by five points or less and owns a record of 5-2 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, then lost games vs. Connecticut (Jan. 23) and at Seton Hall (Jan. 27) by a combined four points, before pulling out the 72-68 overtime win at Rutgers. After holding on to a 52-51 win over USF its last time out, UC is now 1-1 in one-point games. Overall, Cincinnati is 7-4 on the season in games decided by five points or less and 8-9 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 7-12 (.368) in conference action, a record helped dramatically by this season's 3-1 mark. 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. So far this month, Vaughn is averaging 16.5 ppg while Williamson is at 14.8 ppg.
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 are second in the BIG EAST in 3-point shooting defense, allowing opponents to connect on just 29.1 percent (65-of-223) 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.
Opponent 3-pt Made (per game) 85 (7.1) 65 (5.0)
Opponent 3-pt Attempts (per game) 245 (20.4) 209 (17.1)
Opponent 3-pt Pct. .347 .291
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 8-0 when holding opponents to 60 points or less and 10-5 when winning the rebounding margin.
ANOTHER BIG "O" FOR UC ... OVERTIME: The Bearcats needed an extra five minutes to knock off Rutgers on Feb. 9, 72-68, and move to 3-0 in overtime games under head coach Mick Cronin. Sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn did a lot of the leg work in the extra period vs. the Scarlet Knights, scoring 13 of his 19 points. He now has scored 21 points in three overtime periods for his career. UC is now 47-42 all-time in overtime games.
DOMINATING DEFENSE: In its last five games, including West Virginia, the UC defense has been devastating opposing teams with a physical style of defense that has held opponents to 55.2 points and a .349 shooting percentage. 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).
TAKING CARE OF THE BALL: Cincinnati has done a much better job taking care of the basketball in its last seven BIG EAST Conference games. In its first six league games, the Bearcats were coughing up the basketball an average of 15.6 times per game, a number they have slimmed to 11.3 in their last seven contests. For the season, Cincinnati is averaging 13.6 turnovers per game and a -0.5 turnover margin. Against USF on Wednesday, the Bearcats turned the ball over a season-low six times.
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. After being held scoreless in five straight appearances from Dec. 29-Jan. 9, Davis has scored 40 points in his last 88 minutes (nine contests). Eighteen of the points have come from behind the arc where he has connected on 6-of-15 (.400). Davis scored 10 of Cincinnati's 23 points in the opening half vs. St. John's, his fourth double-digit game of the season.
500-POINT MAN: Sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn needs 66 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 255-48 record, a .841 winning percentage. UC is 90-25 in Fifth Third over the last six seasons, including a 10-5 mark this season. In two years at Cincinnati, Mick Cronin is 19-13 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 3-7 overall on the road this season. Sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn scores 5.4 fewer points away from Cincinnati mainly due to his 3-point shooting which drops from .422 (49-of-116) at home to .333 (20-of-60) on the road .
Category Home Away
Scoring Offense 67.0 62.7
Scoring Defense 64.8 67.3
Field Goal Pct. 42.3 41.7
Field Goal Percentage Defense 42.1 41.6
3-Point FG Pct. 33.0 33.0
3-Point FG Defense 32.1 30.4
Rebounding Margin +3.1 +2.6
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 19.1 points per game despite 3-, 10- and 14-point scoring performances in league play. 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 a pair 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 6.8 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 .531 (52-of-98) from the field and .460 (23-of-50) from behind the 3-point arc. In Cincinnati's 72-68 overtime win at Rutgers, Vaughn single-handedly won the game for Cincinnati, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the extra period.
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 13 wins, the team is shooting .436 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 .373 shooting from the field and 57.2 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 18 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 an average of 11.3 points per game in the first four league games, the sextet has posted 16.1 points in the last eight games, 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 top scoring freshman, putting in 5.1 points a game.
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 19.1 points per night in the league, while Williamson has improved his scoring average from 9.3 in non-conference play to 11.6 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 5.5 caroms per conference game. Warren also leads the team in assists (64), steals (19) and assists-to-turnover ratio at 2.37 in league play.
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 nine games as the Bearcats have outscored the opposition's bench 236-142, including a 23-2 advantage vs. Syracuse and a 40-16 vs. Notre Dame. On average, the Bearcats are getting 18.6 points per game from their reserves, led by senior Marvin Gentry and freshman Larry Davis, who are averaging 6.0 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, when leading with five minutes to play. UC is 20-4 in Cronin's time at Cincinnati when leading with five minutes remaining in the game.
IN THE LAST FIVE GAMES: The Bearcats are 4-1 in BIG EAST play and 2-0 on the road ... senior guard Deonta Vaughn has scored in double figures four times and leads the team with 16.8 points per game ... senior forward John Williamson is a close second with 14.0 points per game ... UC is shooting 40.1 percent from the field (113-of-282), including 32.3 percent (30-of-93) from behind the 3-point line ... Vaughn has knocked down 13-of-37 treys for a 35.1 shooting percentage from behind the line ... as a team, UC is shooting .676 from the free-throw line, led by Vaughn at .938 (15-of-16) ... guards Jamual Warren and Vaughn are first and second on the team in assists with 24 and 10, respectively ... Warren leads the team with an average of 6.2 boards a night.
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 5.0 points, 4.9 assists and 5.5 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 eighth in the league in assists (4.9 apg) and assist/turnover ratio (2.37).
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 3.9 points per game on 19-of-63 shooting (.302). Regardless of his offense, Hrycaniuk has not let his shooting interfere with his rebounding as he is the team's third-leading rebounder with 4.9 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 25 games and starting 17 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 3.2 rebounds and is third on the team with 36 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: Sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn has been clutch for the Bearcats late in games, converting 24-of-30 free throws (.800) in the last three minutes of games determined by 10 points or less. As a team, the Bearcats are shooting .706 (60-of-85) 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.
WILLIAMSON EARNS SECOND BIG EAST HONOR ROLL: For the second week in a row, senior forward John Williamson was named to the BIG EAST Conference's Honor Roll for the Week of Feb. 11-17. This is the fourth time this season a UC basketball player has earned an all-league honor. Williamson led the UC to a 60-43 victory over St. John's this past Wednesday, putting up a season-high 25 points and hauling in 11 rebounds. He shot 11-of-18 (.611) from the field, while adding a pair of blocks.
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.
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 16.5 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. Freshman Rashad Bishop leads the way offensively, scoring 5.1 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.
LOOKING AHEAD: Cincinnati heads to the Steel City on Wednesday, Feb. 27 for a 7:30 p.m. tip against Pittsburgh. The Bearcats took the first game between the two earlier this season at Fifth Third Arena on Jan. 19, 62-59 as Deonta Vaughn scored 14 points. The Bearcats own a 7-3 record in the series and have won four of the last six.