BIG EAST Championship: Quarterfinals vs. West Virginia
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gobearcats.COM

March 11, 2010

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Game 33: BIG EAST CHAMPIONSHIP

Thursday, March 11 | 9 p.m. | Madison Square Garden (19,763) | New York, N.Y. | TV: ESPN | Radio: 700 WLW

THE MATCH-UP

The Cincinnati Bearcats (18-14, 7-11 BIG EAST), the No. 11 seed in the BIG EAST Championship upset the No. 6 seed Louisville, 69-66, in the second round to advance to the quarterfinals where they will face No. 7/6 West Virginia (26-4, 13-5 BIG EAST) on Thursday, March 11 at 9 p.m. at Madison Square Garden. Since the tournament expanded to 16 teams last year, UC is the first team which played on the first day of the tournament to advance to the quarterfinal round. West Virginia has had five days off since they knocked off No. 9/9 Villanova last Saturday, 68-66, in overtime. The game will be broadcast on ESPN 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.

 

THE SERIES

Saturday’s game will be the 18th meeting between Cincinnati and West Virginia.  Cincinnati holds a 10-7 lead in the series, which began in the 1940-41 season.  The Mountaineers snapped a two-game losing streak to the Bearcats two weeks ago in Morgantown with a 74-68 come-from-behind win. The Bearcats have won four of the last six meetings, including a 3-2 mark under Mick Cronin. The series is tied 1-1 on neutral courts. Senior guard Deonta Vaughn is the Bearcats active leading scorer vs. WVU averaging 15.2 ppg.

 

MARCH 10 — LOUISVILLE GAME NOTES

·         Two free throws by senior Deonta Vaughn with 5.9 seconds remaining on the clock secured a 69-66 comeback win for Cincinnati in the second round of the BIG EAST Championship.

·         The Bearcats trailed by as many as 12 points before rallying for the win. The 12-point deficit is the second-largest deficit UC has overcome to earn a win this season. Cincinnati overcame a 15-point deficit to earn a win over Prairie View A&M in its season opener on Nov. 16.

·         The win was Cincinnati’s fourth straight win over Louisville in conference tournament play and Louisville now leads the all-time series, 53-40.

·         The win by the Bearcats also moved UC to the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Tournament, where they will meet No. 3-seed West Virginia. It is the first time since the BIG EAST Championship field expanded to 16 teams that a team that played in the first round advanced to the quarterfinals.

·         UC outrebounded UofL, 54-33. The 54 total rebounds were a season-high. Cincinnati’s 28 offensive rebounds were also a season high. The Bearcats are 9-1 on the season when grabbing 45-plus rebounds in a game.

·         Cincinnati outscored Louisville in points in the paint (40-24), second-chance points (17-6), and in bench points (15-2).

·         UC held UofL to 36.0 percent (9-of-25) shooting in the second half after the Cards shot 50 percent (15-of-30) in the first half. Cincinnati connected on 43.8 percent (14-of-32) of its shots in the second half compared to 27.5 percent (11-of-40) of its shots in the first half.

·         A freshman Jaquon Parker put-back with 9:40 to play in the game gave Cincinnati a 53-51 lead, its first lead of the game.

·         Trailing 46-34 with 18:41 to play in the second half, UC went on a 13-1 run over the next 5:39 to tie the game at 47 with 13:02 remaining.

·         The Cardinals lead reached as many as 12 in the first half, but Cincinnati used two free throws by Vaughn with 2.8 seconds to play in the opening 20 minutes to cut its halftime deficit to nine points, 41-32.

·         A 10-4 Louisville run from the 9:08 mark of the first half to the 7:13 mark of the first half helped the Cardinals open up a 10-point lead, 31-21.

·         Sophomore Yancy Gates scored 10 of his team-high 16 points in the second half to record his 21st double-figure scoring effort of the season.

·         For the second straight game, junior Darnell Wilks led the Bearcats in first-half scoring with eight points on 3-of-4 shooting. Wilks finished with a career-high tying 12 points and added seven rebounds.

·         Parker scored eight points for Cincinnati and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds, including seven offensive rebounds. The seven offensive rebounds are the most by a Cincinnati player this season.

·         Freshman Lance Stephenson and Vaughn finished with 12 points and 10 points, respectively.

 

FAMILIAR FACES AND PLACES

·         Tonight’s BIG EAST Quarterfinals will be the fourth meeting between Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin and West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, however their relationship goes back much further.

·         Cronin joined Coach Huggins and UC in 1996-97 as the team’s video coordinator after spending five years as a high school coach.

·         After one year overseeing video, Cronin was named an assistant coach at UC and spent the next four years with Coach Huggins, compiling a record of 108-26 (.806), winning four Conference USA regular-season titles, and going to four straight NCAA Tournaments.

·         Their 1999-00 team, which was led by that year’s National Player of the Year Kenyon Martin, was ranked in the Top 4 nationally all season.

 

SECOND-HALF SAVIORS

·         BIG EAST Rookie of the Year Lance Stephenson has been clutch down the stretch for UC over his last six games, leading the team in points (15.3), rebounds (7.7), and assists (3.2) per game.

·         Since being inserted into the starting lineup before the first game of the BIG EAST Championship to replace Rashad Bishop who was suspended for the tournament, freshman Jaquon Parker has filled in admirably posting 21 points, 14 rebounds and four assists in two starts.

·         In the BIG EAST Championship, the tandem of Stephenson and Parker, the team’s second and third leading scorers in tournament, have provided the needed punch for the Bearcats in the second half, scoring three-quarters of their points in the last 20 minutes of the games vs. Rutgers and Louisville.

·         Stephenson has posted 19 of his 25 points (76.0 percent) in the second half, while Parker has 16 of his 21 points (76.2 percent) after the intermission.

·         Trailing Rutgers 48-43 with 11:42 to play, Stephenson scored 10 of Cincinnati’s next 14 points to help the Bearcats take a 57-52 lead with 7:18 remaining in the game.

 

STEPHENSON BIG EAST ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

·         Two days after being selected as one of two unanimous selections to the BIG EAST Conference All-Rookie Team, University of Cincinnati freshman guard Lance Stephenson (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) was named the league’s Rookie of the Year.

·         Stephenson is the first UC men’s basketball player to earn the distinction since the Bearcats joined the BIG EAST in 2005-06. He joins DerMarr Johnson (1999-00 – Conference USA), Danny Fortson (1994-95 – Great Midwest Conference), and Dontonio Wingfield (1993-94 – Great Midwest Conference) as the only players in program history to earn freshman/rookie/newcomer of the year honors.

·         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 among league freshmen 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., was named BIG EAST Rookie of the Week, the most by any incoming player.

·         Stephenson won the weekly 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.

 

BENCH STRENGTH

·         Now in his fourth year, Coach Cronin has developed a bench that has 10 players averaging 10 minutes or more a game.

·         Cincinnati’s depth has afforded Coach Cronin to use 16 different starting lineups in 32 games.

·         UC is outscoring its opponents bench 824-449 (25.8-14.0 per night).

·         UC’s bench has been outscored four times this season. All four instances have come in conference losses — losses to Pittsburgh (Jan. 4), Seton Hall (Jan. 9), St. John’s (Jan. 13), and Syracuse (Feb. 7). In the four games, the opponent’s bench has outscored Cincinnati’s bench, 119-67 (29.8 - 16.8). The 16.8 ppg from its bench is 9.4 ppg lower than its season average.

 

ANOTHER POST THREAT

·         Junior transfer Ibrahima Thomas has played 25 games for the Bearcats after sitting out the first seven games of the year due to NCAA transfer rules.

·         The Dakar, Senegal native has started to emerge as a post threat for the Bearcats over the last 10 games, scoring 6.5 points per game and is the team’s top rebounder (7.6 rpg) during that stretch.

·         Thomas broke his career-high for rebounds vs. Rutgers in the first round of the BIG EAST Championship, grabbing 13 boards, his third double-figure rebounding performance in his last nine games. UC is 3-0 in those contests.

·         His 10.5 rebounds per game in the first two rounds of the league tournament is tops on the team and 3.5 more than Jaquon Parker’s 7.0 rpg.

·         Thomas has also seen increased minutes over the last 13 contests averaging 21.7 mpg after averaging just 12.8 mpg over his first 12 games.

 

A STROLL DOWN “PARK” AVENUE

·         Freshman point guard Jaquon Parker earned the unexpected start vs. Rutgers in the first round of the BIG EAST Championship, starting in place of Rashad Bishop, and was back in the starting five against Louisville

·         He has started five games this season, including four against BIG EAST opponents.

·         Parker scored a team-high tying 13 points and knocked down a season-high tying three 3-pointers vs. the Scarlet Knights in the first round, while grabbing five rebounds.

·         He followed up his opening round performance with eight points and nine rebounds vs. Louisville. His seven offensive boards vs. the Cardinals are the most by a UC player this season in a game.

·         Over his four starts vs. BIG EAST foes, Parker is averaging 9.8 ppg while shooting 56.0 percent from the field (14-of-25) and 41.7 percent from 3-point range (5-of-12).