CINCINNATI vs. DE PAUL Kelly Tires Conference USA Tournament
Date:Saturday, Mar. 13, 2004 Time: 11:37 a.m. EST Site: U.S. Bank Arena (16,202), Cincinnati, Ohio Records: Cincinnati (13th AP/12th USA Today/ESPN) 23-6, 12-4 C-USA (tie-1st place) DePaul 21-8, 12-4 C-USA (tie-1st place) TV: CBS, WKRC-TV in Cincinnati (Gus Johnson, Dan Bonner). Radio: WCKY-AM 1360 (Dan Hoard, Chuck Machock). Tickets: Available at site. Series: Cincinnati leads, 26-11. This Season: UC 90, DePaul 65 (1/10/04 in Cincinnati); DePaul 68, UC 65 (3/4/04 in Rosemont, Ill.)
THE COACHES ? BOB HUGGINS (West Virginia ?77) At Cincinnati: 15th year, 372-118 (.759) Overall: 23rd year, 540-190 (.740) Huggins is the nation?s fifth-winningest active coach and is 13th in victories. He is 24-6 vs. DePaul.
? DAVE LEITAO (Northeastern ?83) At DePaul: 2nd year, 37-21 (.638) Overall: 4th year, 59-56 (.513) Leitao coached DePaul to its first winning season in three years in his debut last year, guiding the Blue Demons to the NIT. He is 2-2 vs. Cincinnati.
CINCINNATI PROBABLE STARTERS 2003-04 Statistics F 33 Armein Kirkland, 6-8 So., Tyler, Texas 6.1 pts, 2.4 reb, 2.1 ast F 54 Jason Maxiell, 6-7 Jr., Carrollton, Texas 13.9 pts, 7.0 reb, 2.0 blk C 42 Kareem Johnson, 6-7 Sr., Eufaula, Ala. 5.8 pts, 5.6 reb, 0.6 ast G 2 Field Williams, 6-4 Sr., Houston, Texas 11.7 pts, 2.4 reb, 2.1 ast G 21 James White, 6-7 So., Kensington, Md. 8.5 pts, 3.9 reb, 3.5 ast
DePAUL PROBABLE STARTERS 2003-04 Statistics F 45 Quemont Greer, 6-7 Jr., Milwaukee, Wis. 12.6 pts, 7.4 reb, 1.6 ast F 5 Delonte Holland, 6-7 Sr., Greenbelt, Md. 16.8 pts, 5.2 reb, 2.1 ast F 4 Andre Brown, 6-9 Sr., Chicago, Ill. 14.4 pts, 9.7 reb, 0.8 blk G 11 Sammy Mejia, 6-6 Fr., Bronx, N.Y. 8.2 pts, 4.4 reb, 4.5 ast G 33 Drake Diener, 6-5 Jr., Fond du Lac, Wis. 12.2 pts, 3.2 reb, 2.5 ast
SETTING THE SCENE: For the third time in the past four seasons, Cincinnati finds itself in the championship game of the Kelly Tires Conference USA Men?s Basketball Tournament. The Bearcats (No. 12 USA Today/ESPN, No. 13 AP) face DePaul for the 2004 tourney title on Saturday with tipoff at 11:37 a.m. EST. Cincinnati (23-6), the No. 3 seed of the tournament, advanced to Saturday?s game by defeating Louisville, 64-62, on Thursday and Saint Louis, 66-46, on Friday. DePaul (21-8), the No. 1 seed, defeated TCU, 89-65, on Thursday and UAB, 75-74 in overtime, on Friday.
CHAMPIONSHIP GAME APPEARANCES: Saturday?s game will mark the fifth time in the nine-year history of Conference USA that Cincinnati has appeared in the tourney championship game. The Bearcats won the tournament title in 1996, 1998 and 2002 and were runners-up in 2001. UC has played in 11 previous tourney title games, three in the Metro Conference, winning two titles, and four in the Great Midwest, winning all four crowns. DePaul has had one championship game appearance. The Blue Demons faced Saint Louis in the 2000 C-USA final, falling to the Billikens, 56-49.
STORY LINES: ? Cincinnati and DePaul split the regular season series. The Bearcats bounced the Blue Demons, 90-65, in Cincinnati on Jan. 10. DePaul retaliated with a 68-65 victory in Rosemont, Ill. on March 4. ? Cincinnati and DePaul have never previously faced each other in the Conference USA Tournament. The two faced off in the quarterfinals of the 1995 Great Midwest Conference Tournament in Milwaukee. The Bearcats edged the Blue Demons, 96-95, in overtime. ? DePaul leads C-USA in field goal percentage offense. The Blue Demons are shooting .474 from the field. Cincinnati is second at .458. The Bearcats are ranked second in the league in field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents a .387 percentage. ? DePaul?s Drake Diener (.469) and Cincinnati?s Field Williams (.436) are ranked first and second in C-USA in 3-point field goal shooting percentage. ? Field Williams needs 12 more points to reach the 1,000-point plateau in career scoring. ? Jason Maxiell, with 152 career blocks, needs one more rejection to move into second place on the UC career list. ? Cincinnati enters Saturday?s game with an 11-game win streak in conference tournament games played in Cincinnati. UC won the 1994 Great Midwest Conference Tournament (three wins) and the 1998 Conference USA Tournament (three wins), both played at UC?s Shoemaker Center (now Fifth Third Arena). The Bearcats captured the 2002 C-USA tourney (3 wins), which was played at U.S. Bank Arena.
TOURNEY TESTED: Cincinnati has won three of the eight previous C-USA Tournament titles, capturing crowns in 1996, 1998 and 2002. The 1998 and 2002 C-USA tourneys were played in Cincinnati, the 2002 tournament taking place in U.S. Bank Arena. The Bearcats are 14-5 in C-USA Tournament play and have a 35-18 mark in all conference postseason tournaments.
LIKE A SECOND HOME: U.S. Bank Arena has been like a second home court to the Bearcats. Cincinnati has won its last seven games in the building, including the 2002 C-USA tourney. UC, which utilized the venue, then known as Riverfront Coliseum, as its home arena for 11 seasons (1976-87), is 111-51 in all games played at U.S. Bank Arena.
MARCH MADNESS: Over the past 13 years, Cincinnati has posted a 54-24 record during the month of March, underscoring the Bearcats? reputation as a team which is primed for postseason. Since the 1957-58 season, when UC first qualified for the NCAA Tournament, Cincinnati has compiled a 114-59 (.659) ledger in games played in the month of March.
BEARCAT TOURNAMENT NOTES: ? The Bearcats held Saint Louis to 46 points in Friday?s semifinals, matching the fourth-lowest score by a team in C-USA tourney history. The .275 field goal percentage allow was the third-lowest in tourney history. ? Cincinnati?s two-game defensive stats in this year?s C-USA Tournament: 49.0 points allowed, .317 field goal percentage defense, +9.5 rebounding margin. ? UC has shot .476 from the field over its two tournament games. ? Cincinnati entered the tournament with its opponents committing 18.1 turnovers per game. The Bearcats? two C-USA tourney foes committed eight and nine turnovers, respectively. ? Armein Kirkland recorded a career-high seven assists in Thursday?s win over Louisville. ? The Bearcats outscored Louisville, 30-16, in points in the paint and bettered their season high for inside scoring of 29 points set in the final regular season game vs. Memphis. ? Cincinnati?s .489 field goal percentage was a season high by a Louisville opponent. The Cardinals entered the game with C-USA?s top field goal percentage defense. ? UC recorded season lows of four free throws and seven free throw attempts in Friday?s game vs. Saint Louis.
BEARCATS WIN EIGHTH TITLE: For the eighth time in the nine-year history of Conference USA, Cincinnati claimed all or a share of the regular season championship. This season, with UC finishing in an unprecedented five-way deadlock for first place with Memphis, DePaul, UAB and Charlotte, that share might seem a little smaller. Over the past 13 seasons, a span which included four years in the Great Midwest Conference, Cincinnati has won a total of 10 regular season titles and seven tournament crowns.
BEARCATS IN THE POLLS: Cincinnati is No. 12 by USA Today/ESPN poll and No. 13 by the Associated Press in the polls entering the conference tournament. Cincinnati enters the weekend ranked No. 15 in the Sagarin Index and No. 13 in the RPI.
BEARCATS CLAIM C-USA HONORS: Tony Bobbitt and Jason Maxiell were recipients of Conference USA honors in awards voting of the league?s coaches and media. Bobbitt was named C-USA Sixth Man of the Year, marking the fourth time in C-USA?s nine-year history that a Bearcat has won the top sub award. Bobbitt was also a third team All-C-USA selection. Jason Maxiell was named second team All-C-USA.
UC?S POINT FORWARD: James White has taken on a greater role in the ball-handling responsibilities in recent games, and it has become evident in his stats. The 6-7 sophomore has dished out 5.5 assists over his last six games to up his season average to 3.5. White?s nine assists in the Feb. 28 win at Charlotte was the most by a Bearcat this season. He has had recorded seven assists twice in his previous three games, which had been team highs.
BOBBITT NO. 4-SCORING 6TH MAN: Tony Bobbitt is the nation?s fourth-leading scorer, among players who do not normally start for their teams. Bobbitt?s 13.1 average trails Jaivon Harris of Ohio (15.4), Trey Guidry of Illinois State (15.2) and Nate Johnson of Nebraska (13.4).
BOBBITT VS. TOP 25: Tony Bobbitt continues to save some his best performances for top competition. Bobbitt, who has scored at a 13.2 clip this season, has averaged 14.3 points in Cincinnati?s six games against Top 25-ranked opponents. He had 20 points in the March 6 win over Memphis and 23 vs. No. 20 Wake Forest in early February. An 8.0 scorer last season, he averaged 14.0 points vs. ranked foes.
STATITUDES: ? UC has held 15 opponents under the .400 mark in field goal percentage this season and ranks 10th nationally in field goal percentage defense. ? The Bearcats bench has outscored their opponents subs in all but three games this season. UC is getting 30.8 points per game from its bench. ? Cincinnati has made the fewest turnovers of Conference USA schools. UC is averaging 12.1 turnovers per contest. The Bearcats have committed an average of 8.6 miscues over their last five games. ? UC has posted a +7.7 rebounding margin over its last three games and has averaged 27.7 second chance points during that span. ? Field Williams has started the last 58 games, the longest streak of starts among current Bearcats and the longest since Steve Logan?s string of 61 (2000-02).
FIELD TAKES AIM: Field Williams is shooting .436 from 3-point range this season. The senior is ranked No. 16 nationally in 3-point field goal percentage in the most recent NCAA statistics (Mar. 8). He entered the C-USA Tournament ranked second in the league in 3-point field goal percentage and third in 3-pointers per game. Williams is taking aim on the Cincinnati career 3-point field goal percentage record. He is currently shooting .399 from 3-point range, well ahead of the existing record of .394 set by Darnell Burton (1993-97).
JOHNSON LIKES CHARLOTTE: Kareem Johnson has played two of the best games of his career against Charlotte this season. The 6-7 senior scored 14 points to key the Bearcats? win over the 49ers on Feb. 28. Johnson was 6-of-7 from the floor and grabbed nine rebounds. The scoring effort was one point shy of his career high of 15 which he recorded in the first Cincinnati-Charlotte meeting this season (1/31/04). His stats vs. the 49ers this season: 14.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, .800 field goal percentage (12-15).
MAXIELL, BOBBITT EARN ALL-DISTRICT HONORS: Jason Maxiell and Tony Bobbitt were named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches All-District 10 team. Maxiell, UC?s 6-7 junior forward who leads the team in scoring and rebounding, was a first team pick. Bobbitt, the Bearcats? super sixth man and second-leading scorer, was a second team pick.
MAXIELL MAKES WOODEN TOP 30: Jason Maxiell was selected as one of the top 30 candidates for the 2004 John Wooden Award as college basketball's national player of the year. The junior forward was named to the Wooden Award Preseason All-American team last summer. Cincinnati has been well-represented in the Wooden Award selections over the years. Kenyon Martin won the 2000 Wooden Award and Steve Logan was one of five finalists in 2002.
ONE-SIDED WINS: Cincinnati has posted an average scoring margin of 14.4 points this season. UC is ranked sixth nationally in average scoring margin in the most recent NCAA statistics (Mar. 8).
SCORING IN BUNCHES: Cincinnati has had 42 scoring runs of 8-0 or better this season, tops in C-USA. The Bearcats? longest scoring burst was a 19-0 run which took place in the C-USA tourney semifinals vs. Saint Louis. By contrast, UC has been victim of 14 scoring runs of 8-0 or better.
TAKING CARE OF THE BALL: Cincinnati is earning high marks for taking care of the basketball. The Bearcats rank second in Conference USA in turnover margin (+5.1), first in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.34:1) and tied for second in assists per game (16.2).
THAT?S DEFENSE: Head coach Bob Huggins vowed that his Cincinnati Bearcats would exhibit more aggressive defensive play this season. ? Cincinnati has forced its opponents into committing an average of 17.5 turnovers per game, while averaging 18.9 points per game off turnovers. ? Cincinnati has held its foes to .387 shooting from the field. UC has held 14 opponents to sub-.400 shooting and three under the .300 mark. The Bearcats are No. 10 nationally in field goal percentage defense.