Men's Basketball vs. Weber State - NIT - First Round
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March 16, 2010

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Game 34: NIT - First Round

Wednesday, March 17 | 7 p.m. | Fifth Third Arena (13,176) | Cincinnati, Ohio | TV: ESPN2 | Radio: 700 WLW

 

THE MATCH-UP

The Cincinnati Bearcats (18-15, 7-11 BIG EAST), the No. 2-seed in the “Illinois” bracket of the National Invitational Tournament (NIT), open postseason play for the second time under head coach Mick Cronin vs. No. 7-seed Weber State (20-10, 13-3 Big Sky) from the Big Sky Conference on Wednesday, March 17 at 7 p.m. EST. UC earned its at-large bid for the NIT by putting together a run at the BIG EAST Championship last week, coming from behind to beat Rutgers, 69-68, and Louisville, 69-66, before No. 7/6 West Virginia eked out a 54-51 victory on a last second bank shot in the quarterfinals. Weber State earned its bid to the NIT by claiming its third Big Sky Conference regular-season title in the last four years. The Wildcats came up just short of earning the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, losing to Montana, who rallied from 22 points down, in the conference championship game to win, 66-65. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2 with Mike Patrick (play-by-play) and Tim Welsh (analyst) on the call. Dan Hoard (pxp) and Chuck Machock (analyst) will call the game on 700 WLW.

 

THE SERIES

This will be the first meeting between Weber State and Cincinnati. The Bearcats own a record of 2-0 vs. teams from the Big Sky Conference. However, the Bearcats have played in Ogden, Utah, the home of the Wildcats, losing to Wisconsin, 80-72, in the first round of the 1994 NCAA West Regional at the Dee Events Center.

 

SCOUTING THE WILDCATS

·         Weber State is 20-10 overall and finished first during the regular season in the Big Sky Conference with a 13-3 record. It was WSU’s third conference title in the last four years under head coach Randy Rahe.

·         After beating Portland State, 69-60, to advance to the Big Sky Conference Championship game, the Wildcats lost to Montana, 66-65.

·         Weber State is 8-2 in its last 10 games, but both losses have come in their last three games.

·         WSU is ranked 34th in the nation in scoring, averaging 76.7 points per game, with three players averaging in double figures.

·         Sophomore guard Damian Lillard, the 2010 Big Sky Conference league MVP, leads the team and is 31st in the NCAA with a 19.7 points per game average.

·         Lillard also ranks among the nation’s best in 3-point field goals per game (2.7/48th), 3-point field goal percentage (.388/44th), and free throw percentage (.853/45th).

·         Senior Steve Panos, a second-team Big Sky selection, and junior Franklin Session, the Big Sky Newcomer of the Year, are the other two Wildcats scoring in double digits at 10.8 and 10.6 points per game, respectively.

·         As a team, WSU shoots the ball exceptionally well from 3-point range, hitting 35.5 percent from outside the arc. As a team, the Wildcats score 8.1 3-pointers a game, the 26th most in the NCAA.

·         Besides Lillard, senior guard Nick Hansen ranks among the nation’s Top 100 3-point shooters at No. 80, scoring 2.4 treys a game.

·         The Wildcats protect the basketball as well, turning it over just 12.1 times per game to rank 51st in the nation in the category. They also rank 86th in the nation in assist/turnover ratio (1.07).

·         Defensively, Weber State is ranked 235th in the NCAA in scoring defense, giving up 70.9 points per game. Its opponents are shooting 44.1 percent from the field.

 

NIT HISTORY

·         Cincinnati is playing in its 10th National Invitational Tournament in program history (1951, 1955, 1957, 1970, 1974, 1985, 1990, 1991, 2006, 2010).

·         The Bearcats are 7-9 all-time in NIT play, including a mark of 5-2 at home.

·         The Bearcats made their first postseason appearance as a program in the 1951 NIT under head coach John Wiethe. That season, UC finished with a final record of 18-4 losing to St. Bonaventure in the first round, 70-67, in double overtime.

·         The team’s best finish in the NIT was a third-place finish in 1955 under legendary coach George Smith. After losing to Duquesne, 65-51, in the semifinals, Cincinnati knocked off St. Francis (Pa.), 95-91, in the consolation game. Jack Twyman scored 29 points in the game, the most points by a Bearcat in a NIT game.

·         UC last played in the NIT in 2006 making it to the quarterfinals where it lost to South Carolina, 65-62, under interim head coach Andy Kennedy.

 

POSTSEASON COACHING EXPERIENCE

·         Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin, who owns a 129-91 overall record, is making his 10th postseason appearance as a college coach (six as an assistant at UC [4] and Louisville [2]) and fourth as a head coach.

·         He guided Murray State to two NCAA appearances in his three seasons with the Racers.

·         Cronin is 0-3 as a head coach in postseason play, losing first round games in the NCAA Tournament in 2004 and 2006 at Murray State and an opening round game of the College Basketball Invitational to Bradley in 2008.

 

MARCH 9-11 —BIG EAST CHAMPIONSHIP NOTES

·         Cincinnati picked up its first wins in BIG EAST Championship play knocking off Rutgers, 69-68, and Louisville, 69-66, before dropping a 54-51 decision to then-No. 7/6 West Virginia in the quarterfinals on a last-season bank-shot.

·         UC, the No. 11 seed in the tournament, was the first team since the BIG EAST went to the new 16-team format, to advance to the quarterfinals after playing on Day 1 of the championship.

·         In the two wins, the Bearcats rallied from down six points to Rutgers and 12 points to Louisville for the victories.

·         Cincinnati, which shot 35.4 percent from the field in the BIG EAST Championship, made up for its inaccuracies by playing solid defense and rebounding the ball.

·         In the three games, UC outrebounded its opponents by a combined 142-102 for +13.3 rebounding margin.

·         The Bearcats held its opponents to 40.4 percent shooting from the field and 62.7 points per game.

·         UC made up for its poor shooting on the offense glass by grabbing 65 offensive rebounds in the three games (21.7 per game). That led to Cincinnati getting off an additional 26 shots over the three games vs. its opponents (192 to 166).

·         The Bearcats pulled down a season-high 28 offensive rebounds vs. Louisville, the night after getting 23 vs. Rutgers.

·         After picking up the BIG EAST Conference Rookie of the Year award prior to the Bearcats first game vs. Rutgers, freshman guard Lance Stephenson did not disapoint his hometown crowd at Madison Square Garden. Stephenson averaged a team-high 14.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists

·         Stephenson played a big part in the Bearcats first victory vs. Rutgers scoring 10 of his 13 points in the game in a second-half stretch that put UC on top for the first time. He later clinched the game with a free throw with 1.8 seconds left in the regulation.

·         Senior guard Deonta Vaughn, who averaged 9.3 points per game in New York, locked down the victory vs. Louisville with a pair of free throws of his own with 5.9 seconds left in the game.

·         After being inserted into the starting lineup at the BIG EAST Championship for Rashad Bishop, who was suspended for violating team rules, freshman guard Jaquon Parker played admirably for UC seeing 22 minutes of action a night. Parker averaged 7.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in the three games and tied for the team-high for points in the opening-round game vs. Rutgers with 13 points.

·         Junior forward Darnell Wilks also helped to fill Bishop’s void coming off the bench to average 8.0 points and 4.0 rebounds in New York. Against Louisville, Wilks scored a career-high tying 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds for UC.

 

STEPHENSON NAMED 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.

 

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.

·         Stephenson becomes the third Bearcat to earn the distinction since UC began play in the BIG EAST in 2005-06, joining teammates Deonta Vaughn (2006-07) and Yancy Gates (2008-09).

·         He was joined on the BIG EAST All-Rookie Team by Alex Oriakhi, UConn; Vincent Council, Providence; Dane Miller, Rutgers; Brandon Triche, Syracuse; Maalik Wayns, Villanova.