Men's Basketball to Face Rutgers in First Round of BIG EAST Championship|
March 6, 2010
Game 31: BIG EAST CHAMPIONSHIP
Tuesday, March 9 | 9 p.m. | Madison Square Garden (19,763) | New York, N.Y. | TV: ESPNU | Radio: 700 WLW
The Cincinnati Bearcats (16-14, 7-11 BIG EAST), the No. 11-seed in the BIG EAST Championship, open postseason play vs. Rutgers (15-16, 5-13 BIG EAST), the No. 14 seed on Tuesday, March 9 at 9 p.m. EST. The Bearcats come into the BIG EAST Championship losing five of its last six games, including their last three in a row to nationally-ranked teams (West Virginia, Villanova, Georgetown). Cincinnati will look to the hot hand of freshman Lance Stephenson, who is averaging 16.8 points and 8.3 rebounds per game over his last four contests, to help get the Bearcats back on track. Rutgers, which has lost four of its last five and two in a row, is coming off an 83-54 loss at No. 17/18 Pittsburgh on the final day of the regular season. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU with Sean McDonough (play-by-play), Jay Bilas (analyst) and Bill Raftery (analyst) on the call. Dan Hoard (pxp) and Chuck Machock (analyst) will call the game on 700 WLW.
Tuesday’s game will be the 14th meeting between Cincinnati and Rutgers and the seventh since UC joined the BIG EAST Conference. The Bearcats hold a 10-3 lead in the series, which began in 1971-72. The Bearcats have won the last three meetings and earlier this season took a 65-58 decision in New Brunswick, N.J., on Jan. 2. Senior guard Deonta Vaughn led the Bearcats in scoring with 17 points and is UC’s leading active scorer vs. the Scarlet Knights, averaging 19.5 points per game.
SCOUTING THE SCARLET KNIGHTS
· Rutgers is 15-16 overall and finished 14th in the BIG EAST Conference with a 5-13 record.
· The Scarlet Knights have lost four of their last five games, including a 83-54 decision at Pittsburgh last Saturday (March 6) on the last day of the regular season.
· Rutgers is ranked 14th overall in the BIG EAST, averaging 67.5 points per game with two players averaging in double figures.
· Sophomore guard Mike Rosario leads the team and is 11th in the BIG EAST with a 16.3 points per game average.
· Redshirt junior forward Jonathan Mitchell is the other Scarlet Knight scoring in double figures at 11.7 points per game.
· Rutgers, despite having three player averaging six or more rebounds per game, is 15th in the BIG EAST in rebounding margin (-2.5 rpg).
· Senior center Hamady Ndiaye leads the team in rebounding with 7.1 per game, followed by freshman Dane Miller and Mitchell who are tied at 6.0 boards per game.
· Ndiaye also brings a shot blocking presence to the floor for Rutgers, averaging 4.6 blocks per game - over half of team’s per game average (7.1). Ndiaye is third in the country in blocked shots and as a team, Rutgers is ranked sixth.
· RU allows its opponents 71.8 points per game, which ranks 13th overall in the league.
· Opponents are shooting 43.1 percent from the field and 33.8 percent from behind the 3-point line vs. the Scarlet Knights.
CURRENT BEARCATS VS. RUTGERS
· Senior guard Deonta Vaughn is the only current Bearcat averaging in double figures vs. Rutgers. Vaughn has posted 19.5 ppg in four career games vs. the Scarlett Knights. His single-game high vs. RU came in 2008-09 when he scored 24 points as UC rallied from a 16-point first-half deficit for a 71-59 victory.
· Vaughn is 10-for-21 (.476) from 3-point range vs. Rutgers in four career starts.
· Freshman Lance Stephenson scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds at Rutgers on Jan. 2, his first game in the New York City area since coming to UC.
· Sophomore Yancy Gates has 10 rebounds in two games vs. Rutgers, including eight earlier this season.
UC GARDEN MEMORIES
· UC is are 18-16 overall in Madison Square Garden.
• 14-9 at the Garden that stood at Eighth Ave. between 49th and 50th and was in use between 1925 and 1968.
• 4-7 at the current facility located on Seventh Ave. between 31st and 33rd.
· UC played its first game in Madison Square Garden on February 23, 1950 and defeated No. 10-ranked Long Island University, 83-65.
· On Jan. 9, 1958, Oscar Robertson scored 56 of Cincinnati’s 118 points against Seton Hall in Madison Square Garden as a sophomore, single-handedly outscoring the Pirates (54 points). Robertson recorded another 50-point game against Iowa as a senior at MSG.
· As a team, the Bearcats won the Holiday Festival Tournament in the Garden in 1959 and 1961 and captured third-place in the 1955 NIT.
· During one of UC’s games at the Garden in 1952, the play of the Bearcats caught the eye of a high school athlete from Brooklyn named Sandy Koufax. Koufax ended up attending UC on a basketball scholarship where he played freshmen basketball and then baseball. He was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers while attending UC in 1953-54 and went on to have a Hall of Fame career as one of baseball’s all-time great pitchers.
· Playing in just its fifth season in the BIG EAST Conference, Cincinnati returns to Madison Square Garden for the fourth time to play in the BIG EAST Championship.
· The Bearcats are 0-3 in the BIG EAST Championship, losing to Syracuse, 74-73, in 2006, to Pittsburgh, the eventual tournament champion, 70-64, in 2007-08, and to DePaul in the first round, 67-57, last year.
· Junior guard Deonta Vaughn finished with 30 points in his Madison Square Garden debut in 2007-08 vs. Pittsburgh, and at one point scored 20 straight for UC over a more than 10-minute stretch in the second half.
· UC head coach Mick Cronin has plenty of postseason experience as he coached in three straight Ohio Valley Conference Tournaments, winning titles in 2004 and 2006 and advancing to the NCAA Tournament. His all-time record is 6-3 in conference tournaments.
MARCH 2 —GEORGETOWN GAME NOTES
· Cincinnati has lost its last three games to nationally-ranked teams (West Virginia, Villanova, Georgetown), its longest losing streak of the season. UC lost two in a row three other times this season.
· After the Bearcats cut Georgetown’s lead to 41-35 with 16:13 left in the game, the Hoyas went on a 31-6 run over the next 13:01 to secure the win. Freshman Lance Stephenson scored all six UC points during the run.
· UC’s 47 points equaled its lowest point total in a game this season (47 at UAB, Dec. 16).
· After committing a combined 19 turnovers in its last two games, the Bearcats turned it over 16 times vs. Georgetown, leading to 22 points off turnovers by the Hoyas.
· Cincinnati was outrebounded by Georgetown, 40-28. The -12 rebounding margin is the second-largest vs. UC this season (-13 at UAB, Dec. 16).
· UC was limited to 38.8 percent (19-of-49) shooting in the game, including 2-for-10 from behind the 3-point line.
· After converting 27-of-36 (.750) combined free throws in its last two games, Cincinnati was 7-of-17 (.412) at Georgetown.
· Freshman Lance Stephenson scored eight of UC’s first nine points of the game en route to 10 first half points. Stephenson has scored in double-figures in each of his last four games.
· Stephenson finished with a season-high 23 points on 11-of-17 shooting. He also grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
· Junior forward Ibrahima Thomas made a career high four steals vs. the Hoyas and equaled his career-high with three blocked shots. He also finished with five points and four rebounds.
STEPHENSON NAMED TO BIG EAST ALL-ROOKIE TEAM
· University of Cincinnati freshman guard Lance Stephenson (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) was one of two unanimous selections to the 2010 BIG EAST Conference All-Rookie team.
· The preseason BIG EAST Rookie of the Year, Stephenson led all BIG EAST freshmen in scoring in overall (12.0 ppg) and conference-only games (12.1 ppg). He also finished in the Top 5 overall in rebounds (5.3 rpg/4th), steals (1.0 spg/5th), and assists (2.4 apg/4th).
· Four times this season, the 6-foot-5 guard from Brooklyn, N.Y., has been named BIG EAST Rookie of the Week, the most by any incoming player. He won the award the last two weeks of the regular season after averaging 16.8 points and 8.3 rebounds per game over UC’s last four contests. He also added 11 assists and five steals during the stretch.
· Along with the other four all-Rookie team selections (Alex Oriakhi, UConn; Vincent Council, Providence; Dane Miller, Rutgers; Brandon Triche, Syracuse; Maalik Wayns, Villanova), Stephenson is a candidate for BIG EAST Rookie of the Year. Rookie of the Year will be announced Tuesday between opening-round sessions at the BIG EAST Championship, along with Player of the Year, Oppenheimer Funds/BIG EAST Coach of the Year, and BIG EAST Scholar-Athlete.
BATTLES AT THE TOP
· To improve in the BIG EAST standings, teams will face some of the nation’s toughest competition and many of the top team’s in the polls.
· This season, Cincinnati battled throughout the season, looking to climb up the standings and into the national rankings, but has suffered several close set-backs along the way.
· Of the Bearcats 14 losses, 10 have been decided by eight points or less.
· Despite a record of 0-5 vs. the Top 5 team’s in the BIG EAST, UC lost four of the games (Villanova - 4; West Virginia - 6; Pittsburgh - 3; Marquette - 3) by a combined 16 points.
· UC also held second-half leads in four of the games, including a six-point lead over Syracuse.
GETTING DOWN TO THE END
· Over the final three weeks of the season, UC has faced three of the nation’s top 20 teams (No. 10/8 West Virginia, No. 9/9 Villanova, and No. 19/20 Georgetown).
· UC’s final three opponents finished with a combined record of 68-21 (.764).
· The Bearcats faced No. 8/7 West Virginia in Morgantown last Saturday and fell to the Mountaineers, 74-68.
· In the regular-season home finale, Cincinnati battled back from down double digits in the second half, but came up short vs. Villanova, 77-73.
· The Hoyas broke open a close game in the second half and cruised to a 74-47 win over the Bearcats in the regular-season finale on March 6.
RESUME BUILDING — UC VS. RANKED OPPONENTS
· The Bearcats are ranked No. 63 in the RPI (as of March 6) thanks to having the nation’s 12th toughest schedule, which includes 13 teams in the RPI Top 50.
· UC is 3-5 vs. teams ranked in the AP Poll this season after knocking off No. 24/24 Vanderbilt and No. 21/22 Maryland in the first and second rounds of the 2009 EA Sports Maui Invitational, respectively, and No. 10/10 Connecticut at home on Dec. 30. The losses were to No. 23 Pittsburgh, 74-71, on Jan. 4 (Cincinnati’s first loss at home this season), to No. 3 Syracuse, 71-54, on Feb. 7, No. 8 West Virginia, 74-68, on Feb. 27, No. 9 Villanova, 77-73, on March 2 and No. 19 Georgetown on March 6, 74-47.
· Cincinnati is 114-173 (.397) all-time vs. opponents ranked in the Associated Press Top 25, including a 23-23 (.500) record in Fifth Third Arena.
· The wins vs. Vanderbilt and Maryland marked the first time since the 1999-00 season that Cincinnati defeated ranked opponents in consecutive games. That year, UC defeated No. 25 Gonzaga 75-68 on Dec. 4, 1999, before defeating No. 7 North Carolina 77-68 on Dec. 8, 1999.
· UC is 6-21 vs. ranked opponents under Cronin.
TOUGH TIMES ON THE ROAD
· The Bearcats are 2-9 in away games this season and have a record of 9-36 (.200) in road games under Mick Cronin.
· Both of Cincinnati’s road wins have come in conference play. The first road win of the season came at Rutgers on Jan. 2, knocking off the Scarlet Knights, 65-58. It was UC’s first road win since Feb. 7 of last year when the Bearcats beat Georgetown, 64-62, in overtime at the Verizon Center.
· The second road win of the season came against Connecticut on Feb. 13, when UC defeated UConn, 60-48 in Hartford.
· UC has shot 40.0 percent and averaged 61.3 points per game on the road this season compared to 48.0 percent shooting and 75.8 points in Fifth Third Arena.
· Cincinnati’s 3-point shooting struggles the most on the road as the Bearcats are converting just 52-of-201 (.259) treys away from home, compared to 34.0 percent at home (86-of-253).
· Taking care of the ball is also a weakness on the road as UC is giving up 14.4 turnovers per game, compared to its season average of 13.6.
FIFTH THIRD ADVANTAGE
· The Bearcats are 278-59 (.825) in games at Fifth Third Arena since the building opened in 1989-90.
· Under Mick Cronin, UC is 41-24 in Fifth Third (.631).
· UC is 12-4 at home and 11-4 in Fifth Third Arena this season. The Miami (OH) game is considered a home game despite being played at U.S. Bank Arena.
· The seven consecutive wins to start the year matched the best home winning streak for the Bearcats since 2004-05, when they won nine games, spanning two seasons.
· The Bearcats are averaging 75.5 points per game at home led by Lance Stephenson’s 11.8 points per game and Deonta Vaughn’s 11.3 average.
TALE OF THE TAPE — CONFERENCE HOME VS. AWAY
· Cincinnati finished the BIG EAST Conference season with a record of 7-11. UC was 5-4 at home compared to 2-7 on the road in league action.
· The Bearcats are shooting better at home (45.8 percent) than on the road (41.5 percent) in conference play.
· UC has been turnover prone away from Fifth Third Arena with a -3.1 turnover margin on the road compared to -1.4 at home.
· While the Bearcats are shooting better from the free throw line in road games (67.5 percent) than in home games (56.8 percent), UC has been able to get to the free throw line 22.1 times per game at home compared to 17.1 times on the road. Cincinnati is 9-1 on the season and 4-1 in conference play when shooting more free throws than its opponents. The lone loss came in the regular-season finale at Georgetown where UC was 7-of-17 from the line compared to 12-of-14 by the Hoyas.
NEEDING TO FIND CONSISTENCY
· After going 3-8 in its last 11 games, one thing the Bearcats need to find is consistency.
· In the win over Providence, the UC offense posted its second-highest point total of year in the 92-88 victory, shooing 57.1 percent from the field.
· In the eight losses, the same UC offense has strung together just 62.5 points per game on 41.0 percent shooting.
· The Bearcats 47 points in the regular-season finale at Georgetown equaled its season low (47 at UAB).
· Defensively, UC has been solid most of the season, limiting opponents to an average of 66.5 points per contest on 41.1 percent from the field. That number has jumped considerably in the last 11 games as opponents are averaging 72.4 points on 45.0 percent shooting.
· UC’s defense returned to its early-season form against Connecticut on Feb. 13 as the Bearcats held the Huskies to 48 points. The 48 points are the fewest points allowed by UC this season.
· Throughout the season, UC has been one of the nation’s top rebounding teams averaging 38.8 rebounds per game and a +6.1 rebounding margin, but in the last 11 games, UC averaged just 34.9 boards per game while its opponents grabbed 33.2 rebounds per game — a +1.7 rebounding margin for UC.
· The Bearcats dominated the glass against UConn and DePaul, outrebounding them 46-32 and 47-31, respectively. UC is 7-1 on the season when grabbing 45-plus rebounds in a game.