Bearcats and Panthers Tangle in First Round of BIG EAST Championship


Men's Basketball |

March 12, 2008

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STORY LINES: Making it to the BIG EAST Championship for the second time in the school's three years in the league and first under head coach Mick Cronin, the Cincinnati Bearcats (13-17, 8-10 BIG EAST) are looking to put a difficult end to the regular season behind them and start fresh. UC enters the BIG EAST tournament on a five-game losing streak, its longest since dropping five in a row in December. The Bearcats lost their regular-season finale vs. No. 13/14 Connecticut in Storrs on Sunday, 96-51, shooting a season-low .267 from the floor. UConn dominated the game offensively shooting over .500 from both the floor and behind the 3-point line. Sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn and freshman swingman Rashad Bishop led the Bearcats with nine points a piece. The loss was UC's worst since losing to Denison College, 78-29, on Feb. 14, 1913. Cincinnati will have to put the game in the past quickly as they prepare to take on the University of Pittsburgh (22-9, 10-8 BIG EAST) in the opening round of the BIG EAST Championship in the No. 7 vs. No. 10 game on Wednesday, March 12 at 7 p.m. The game can be seen nationally on EPSN. The Panthers have won three of their last four, including a 73-67 win over UC in Pittsburgh on Feb. 27. The win evened the season series at one a piece as UC knocked off Pitt, 62-59, back on January 19. Pittsburgh locked up the No. 7-seed in the tournament after knocking off DePaul on Saturday, 98-79, behind a 22-point, 14-rebound performance by freshman forward DeJuan Blair. This will be the 12th meeting between the two schools and the first in the postseason. UC leads the series with a record of 7-4.



UC Garden Memories

The Bearcats are 18-14 overall record 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.

      4-5 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 as a sophomore, single-handedly outscored the Pirates.­ Robertson recorded another 50-point game against Iowa as a senior. 


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.


Special thank you to John Perin of WOBO-AM  for his research.


POSTSEASON EXPERIENCE: Playing in just its third season in the BIG EAST Conference, Cincinnati returns to Madison Square Garden for the second time to play in the BIG EAST Championship. Despite being two years removed from its last visit, no player or coach on this season's UC roster participated in the Bearcats' 74-73 loss to Syracuse in 2006. UC head coach Mick Cronin does have 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 6-1 in conference tournaments.


500-POINT MAN: Sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn scored nine points at Connecticut in the season finale to become the 32nd player in Cincinnati history to record 500 points or more in a season. He is 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).


FAST-PACED RACE: Deonta Vaughn also is 65 points away from becoming just the 45th player in UC basketball history to reach 1,000 points for his career. At his career-pace of 15.6 points per game, Vaughn could reach the milestone this season, depending on the Bearcats postseason fortunes. If Vaughn can reach the 1000-point club in the next three games, he would equal Jim Ard (1968-70) as the sixth-fastest player to reach the 1000-point plateau, doing it in 63 games. As remarkable as it would be, Bearcat great Oscar Robertson scored his first 1,000 points in his first 29 games (first game of second season), averaging over 30 points a night. Following in the list of the 10 fastest players to 1,000 career points in UC history.


Rk.  Player           Seasons       G        PTS    AVG   Gms to 1000

1.   Oscar Robertson (3) 1958-60 88   2973    33.8            29

2.   Lloyd Batts (3) 1972-74     79      1585    20.1            52

3.   Ron Bohnam (3) 1962-64   85      1666    19.6            58

4.   Danny Fortson (3) 1995-97 100    1881    18.8            59

       Derrek Dickey (3) 1971-73 78      1328    17.0            59

5.   Herb Jones (2) 1991-92     64      1097    17.7            61

6.   Jim Ard     (3) 1968-70      76      1256    16.5            63

7.   Jack Twyman (4) 1952-55  90      1598    17.8            66

8.   Rick Roberson (3) 1967-69 76      1196    15.7            66

9.   Paul Hogue (3) 1960-62     91      1391    15.3            68

       Jim Holstein (3) 1950-52    75      1146    15.3            68


--   Deonta Vaughn (2) 2007-pres.         60     935          15.6  60


VAUGHN NAMED FIRST-TEAM ALL-BIG EAST: University of Cincinnati sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn was named first-team all-BIG EAST Conference. Vaughn joins Eric Hicks, who was picked in 2005-06, as the only first-team selections in UC's three years in the conference. Vaughn played an instrumental part in the Bearcats' six-win improvement in BIG EAST play as they have gone from two league wins last year to eight this season. Vaughn ranks among the league's best in scoring (16.7 ppg, 7th BIG EAST), assists (4.07 apg, 11th BIG EAST), free-throw percentage (.805, 7th BIG EAST), 3-point field goals made (2.87 per game, 2nd BIG EAST), 3-point percentage (.393, 3rd BIG EAST) and minutes played (33.03, 12th BIG EAST).


A "BIG" EAST IMPROVEMENT: The Bearcats made a six-win improvement in conference wins over last season, going from two victories in 2006-07 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' six-win improvement is tied for the ninth-largest single-season turnaround in BIG EAST history with six other teams. For the list of the biggest one-season improvements in BIG EAST history, turn to page 18 of the notes.


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 eight games since, Williamson has met the challenge and exceeded Coach Cronin's goal of 13 to 14 points, averaging 17.3 points. To go along with the scoring, Williamson also has added a team-high 7.1 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" vs. USF, pulling out a one-point win, 52-51 vs. the Bulls.


DEFENDING THE THREE: In BIG EAST Conference play, one thing UC improved was its ability to defend against the 3-pointer. In conference games, the Bearcats were fifth in the BIG EAST in 3-point shooting defense, allowing opponents to connect on 32.5 percent (110-of-338) 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.


                                                   Non-Conference  Conference

Opponent 3-pt Made (per game)               85 (7.1)      110 (6.1)

Opponent 3-pt Attempts (per game)    245 (20.4)    338 (18.8)

Opponent 3-pt Pct.                                         .347              .325


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 8-1 when holding opponents to 60 points or less and 10-9 when winning the rebounding margin. Both trends took a hit in the DePaul game as the Bearcats lost to the Blue Demons despite holding them to 60 points and out rebounding them, 40-29.


RECENT TROUBLES: Even though the Bearcats out rebounded four of their last five opponents and owned a 192-168 (38.4 to 33.6) advantage, UC lost all five games. The culprit has been UC's inability to take care of the basketball and make baskets. In the losses, Cincinnati has committed 75 turnovers (15.0 per game), leading to 94 points and shot .370 (110-of-297) from the floor.


DEFENSIVE TROUBLES: After holding West Virginia, Marquette, Rutgers, St. John's, and USF to an average of 55.2 points on .349 shooting (91-of-261), the Bearcats defense has struggled in their last five games, giving up 76.6 points per game. UC allowed the five teams to shoot a combined .483 from the field as they converted easy baskets from UC's 75 turnovers over the stretch.


IN THE LAST FIVE GAMES: The Bearcats are 0-5 in BIG EAST play and 0-3 on the road ... sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn has scored in double figures three times and is second on the team with 13.4 points per game ... senior forward John Williamson is first with 17.2 points per game ... UC is shooting .370 percent from the field (110-of-297), including .290 percent (27-of-93) from behind the 3-point line ... Vaughn has knocked down 17-of-43 treys for a 39.5 shooting percentage from behind the line ... as a team, UC is shooting .655 from the free-throw line, led by Jamual Warren who has hit six straight ... Vaughn leads the team with 27 assists ... Williamson leads the team with an average of 7.6 boards a night ... the Bearcats are out rebounding opponents by a margin of 4.8 (38.4 to 33.6) a night.


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 6.7 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 .496 (61-of-123) from the field and .441 (30-of-68) 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.


CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: Since the start of BIG EAST Conference play, Cincinnati has played eight games decided by five points or less and owns a record of 5-3 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, UC is now 1-1 in one-point games. Overall, Cincinnati is 7-5 on the season in games decided by five points or less and 8-10 in Mick Cronin's two seasons at UC.


LIFE'S TOUGHER ON THE ROAD: UC finished the regular season at 3-10 on the road this season after dropping its last three at Pittsburgh, Georgetown, and Connecticut. The three road wins all came in BIG EAST play vs. Louisville, West Virginia, and Rutgers. Sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn scores 4.1 fewer points away from Cincinnati mainly due to his 3-point shooting which drops from .417 (55-of-132) at home to .356 (31-of-87) on the road.


Category                                            Home       Away

Scoring Offense                                     66.9         61.4

Scoring Defense                                    65.5         70.4

Field Goal Pct.                                        .418         .403

Field Goal Percentage Defense              .425         .436

3-Point FG Pct.                                       .329         .317

3-Point FG Defense                                .347         .317

Rebounding Margin                                +3.8         +2.5


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 .395 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 .475 of their shots, leading to 75.6 points per game - a difference of 18.4 points per game.


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 17.5 points per game. 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).


BISHOP TAKES QUEEN (CITY): Freshman forward/guard Rashad Bishop has quickly become one of the Bearcats' top all-around newcomers. Appearing in all 30 games and starting 18 this season, Bishop has scored in double digits five times, including an 11-point outburst in the Bearcats' upset of Pittsburgh in January. Not only has he provided offensive punch (5.4 ppg), he has also added 3.3 rebounds and is third on the team with 40 assists. Thanks to his gritty play against Villanova and Pittsburgh in January, Bishop endeared himself 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.


THE OTHER Larry Davis: Larry Davis, the player, not the associate head coach, stepped up for the Bearcats vs. Providence posting career highs for points (16), rebounds (4), and minutes played (29). Davis now has five double-digit scoring nights this season, including two in his last seven games. Over that stretch, he is averaging 6.0 points per game after posting seven at UConn.


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 17.5 points per night in the league, while Williamson has improved his scoring average from 9.3 in non-conference play to 13.2 in the BIG EAST. On the defensive side of the ball, senior guard Jamual Warren has given UC a new presence on the glass to join Williamson. Warren is tied for third on the team in rebounds in league play with 5.1 boards a night and he also leads the team in assists (79, 10th BIG EAST), steals (28, t-11th BIG EAST) and assists-to-turnover ratio at 2.03 (6th BIG EAST) 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 14 games as the Bearcats have out scored the opposition's bench 280-222, including a 23-2 advantage vs. Syracuse and a 40-16 vs. Notre Dame. On average, the Bearcats are getting 18.4 points per game from their reserves, led by freshmen Rashad Bishop and Larry Davis, who are averaging 5.3 and 4.1 points per game, respectively.


HOLDING ON WITH A FIRM GRIP: In two seasons, one characteristic of a Mick Cronin team has been its ability to hold on to leads late. Until the loss to UConn back on Jan. 23, 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.


TAKING THE POINT: After missing UC's first six games of the year with a hand injury, senior forward Jamual Warren, the team's only point guard, quickly worked his way into the starting lineup and worked off the rust in December. By the start of BIG EAST play he entrenched himself into the starting five and has done an exceptional job protecting the ball and distributing it to his teammates. In conference games only, Warren is 10th in the league in assists (4.39 apg) and sixth in assist/turnover ratio (2.03).


EUROPEAN DEFENSE INITIATIVE: 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 4.2 points per game on 27-of-89 shooting (.303). Regardless of his offense, Hrycaniuk has not let his shooting interfere with his defense or his rebounding as he is the team's second-leading rebounder overall with 5.4 per game. He pulled down a career-high 11 caroms in the last game vs. DePaul.


WHEN YOU NEED IT MOST: Sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn has been clutch for the Bearcats late in games, converting 26-of-32 free throws (.813) in the last three minutes of games determined by 10 points or less. As a team, the Bearcats are shooting .696 (64-of-92) 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. Vaughn picked up his second BIG EAST Honor Roll selection the week of Feb. 18-24 after posting 13 points on four 3-pointers and a free throw at Georgetown.


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, 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.


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.


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.





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