Sign Up for CatsVision All-Access and listen to the game live beginning at 5:15 p.m.!
STORY LINES: The Cincinnati Bearcats (4-2, 0-0 BIG EAST) have won three in row and travel to Birmingham, Ala., to take on former Conference USA opponent UAB for the third straight season in a non-conference bout. The Bearcats are coming off a 69-57 win over USC Upstate, while the Blazers won their last game at Louisiana-Lafayette, 78-72.
DEFENSE IS THE NAME OF THE GAME: For Cincinnati to continue to have success, it is going to need to play defense more like it has during the current three-game winning streak. Since giving up 73.0 points per game to start the season in the first three games, the Bearcats defense has tightened up and allowed 13 fewer points per game (60.0 ppg). Opponents do not get the same looks at the basket, as their shooting percentage has dropped from 46.0 (80-of-174) percent against Belmont, Western Carolina and Bowling Green to .373 (60-of-161) vs. Coastal Carolina, Fairfield and USC Upstate.
SWEET HOME ALABAMA x 2: This basketball game is just the first of two trips the University of Cincinnati will be making to the City of Birmingham this month. The No. 20 Cincinnati football team plays in the Papajohns.com Bowl on Dec. 22 vs. the University of Southern Mississippi at historic Legion Field, the home of UAB football.
SCOUTING THE BLAZERS: The UAB Blazers head into the match-up with Cincinnati with a 5-3 record. The Blazers' three losses came in the Glenn Wilkes Classic in Daytona Beach, Fla., where they lost to Florida State (78-70), Georgia Southern (59-57), and Rhode Island (74-69). UAB is led offensivley by a pair of 15-plus point scorers, junior swingman Robert Vaden (18.9 ppg) and sophomore forward Walter Sharpe (15.3 ppg). Sharpe also is averaging a team-high 7.4 rebounds per game. Freshman guard Aaron Johnson has 25 assists through eight games and is one of four Blazers with 20 or more assists. From the field, UAB is making almost half its shots (.486) while holding its opponents to just over 40 percent (.408). Defensively, the Blazers are even more impressive limiting opponents to 28.2 percent from behind the arc.
FAMILIAR FACES: Two of the Bearcats' next four games will be against former Conference USA opponents, UAB and Memphis. The Bearcats won eight regular-season or tournament championships in C-USA from 1995-2005. In its 10 years in the conference, Cincinnati made the NCAA Tournament each year and owned an overall record of 260-70 (.788), led by C-USA Players of the Year Danny Fortson (1996, 1997), Kenyon Martin (2000), and Steve Logan (2001, 2002).
GETTING IT GOING: The difference between the Bearcats first three games (1-2 record) and the second three games (3-0) has been its improvement in defense and 3-point shooting. Since giving up 73.0 points per game to start the season, the Bearcats defense has tightened up and allowed 13 fewer points per game (60.0 ppg). Opponents do not get the same looks at the basket as their shooting percentage has dropped from 46.0 (80-of-174) percent against Belmont, Western Carolina and Bowling Green to .373 (60-of-161) vs. Coastal Carolina, Fairfield and USC Upstate. While the defense has improved the Bearcats shooting touch has also pick up, going from 41.7 percent overall and 29.0 from behind the arc in the first trio of games to now shooting 44.9 overall and .394 from 3-point range.
EUROPEAN IMPACT: Senior center Adam Hrycaniuk (pronounced hu-RITZ-a-nyuk), a native of Poland, has made an immediate impact on the Bearcats. After having to sit out last year due to NCAA clearance issues, Hrycaniuk has jumped into the line-up for UC and become an offensive threat, scoring 10.7 points per game and joining sophomore Deonta Vaughn as the only two double-digit scorers on the team. The 6-foot-10 post player is also Cincinnati's second-leading rebounder with 7.0 rebounds per game.
BISHOP TAKES QUEEN (CITY): Freshman forward/guard Rashad Bishop has quickly become one of the Bearcats' top all-around newcomers. Starting UC's last four games, Bishop has scored in double digits twice, including two games with a season-high 12 points (Bowling Green and Fairfield), and is averaging 7.3 in those games. Not only has he provided offensive punch, he has also added 3.7 rebounds and is second on the team with 3.0 assists per game.
30-MINUTE MAN ...: Through Cincinnati's first six games, senior point guard Deonta Vaughn has been the iron-man of UC basketball, logging an average of 36.5 minutes per game. In the season opener vs. Belmont, Vaughn played 39 minutes for the Bearcats, three short of his career high of 42 in a 70-67 overtime victory over Seton Hall on Feb. 28 of last season. The next closest players to Vaughn in terms of minutes are seniors Adam Hrycaniuk (29.0) and Marvin Gentry (27.8).
30-POINT MAN: Sophomore point guard Deonta Vaughn, the team's leading scorer last year, had a night to remember vs. Coastal Carolina (Nov. 16). Vaughn established a new career high for points in a game with 36 and equaled his career best with nine 3-point baskets, one short of the school record. His 36 points were the most by a Bearcat since Steve Logan posted 41 vs. Southern Mississippi on Feb. 15, 2002. Through six games, Vaughn leads Cincinnati in scoring with 17.8 points per game.
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.
BLOCK PARTY: Even though he is averaging just 8.6 minutes per game, center Anthony McClain has already made a difference in one statistical category for the Bearcats ... blocked shots. Last season, UC ranked last in the BIG EAST, rejecting just 1.93 shots per game. Through six games, Cincinnati is averaging 2.8 per game thanks mostly to McClain's team-best eight blocked shots in just 43 minutes of action (1 every five minutes on the floor). Besides standing 6-11, McClain has the advantage of a 7-foot-3 wing span.
WINDOW CLEANERS: Before being out rebounded by Fairfield, 40-28, Cincinnati out rebounded each previous opponent. On the year, UC is out rebounding its opponents by an average margin of +4.2 boards per game. Senior forward John Williamson, who led the team in rebounding last season, and senior center Adam Hrycaniuk are first and second on the team in rebounding, averaging 7.7 and 6.3 boards, respectively.
SHAKING THE RUST OFF: After committing a season-high 19 turnovers in the opener vs. Belmont, Cincinnati has been working to eliminate unforced errors. Since, UC has committed fewer turnovers vs. Western Carolina (15), Bowling Green (12), and Coastal Carolina (10). They Bearcats are averaging 13.7 turnovers per game, just one more than last season's count (12.7 turnovers per game).
GETTING TO THE LINE: With a bigger front line and more players taking the ball to the net, UC is getting to the free-throw line 22 times a game this season. Last year, the Bearcats averaged 17.2 shots per game from the charity stripe. After making 6-of-14 attempts against USC Upstate in the last game, Cincinnati's free-throw shooting percentage dropped to .657, its lowest mark of the year, and is just slightly below last season (66.1 percent - 341-of-516 - in 2006-07). Senior center Adam Hrycaniuk leads the team in free-throw shooting, converting 23-of-28 free throws (.821).
WHEN YOU NEED IT MOST: Senior center Adam Hrycaniuk has been clutch for the Bearcats late in games, converting 7-of-8 free throws (.875) in the last three minutes of games determined by 10 points or less.
BEARCATS TOUGH TO BEAT IN FIFTH THIRD ARENA: With a 4-2 start to its home schedule, Cincinnati owns a record of 249-45 (.847 winning percentage) in its 19 seasons in Fifth Third Arena at Shoemaker Center. The game versus South Carolina Upstate closed out a season-long six-game home stand that also included the Peggy Cronin Classic, Coastal Carolina and Fairfield. UC is 84-22 in Fifth Third over the last six seasons.
PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELF: Head coach Mick Cronin, in just his second year at Cincinnati, has done the work of a coach in this fourth year on the job, having signed 15 players in the last 18+ months. This season's six-person freshman class is considered by the recruiting services as one of the top 20 groups in the nation and the stats from the first six games attest to that. Larry Davis and Rashad Bishop have combined for five double-digit scoring nights and center Anthony McClain has scored 17 points, pulled down 16 rebounds (11 offensive) and blocked eight shots in just 43 minutes of action. Bishop and Davis have had the best offensive season to date, averaging 6.8 and 6.5 points per game
MR. CONSISTENT: Senior forward John Williamson has picked up right where he left off at the end of last year. The 6-foot-6 senior, who scored in double digits in 23 of the team's 30 games last season, has reached the double-digit mark in three of UC's first six games this season, scoring 10 vs. Belmont, 11 vs. Western Carolina and a season-best 14 against Bowling Green. He also added two double-digit rebounding nights, including a season-best 13 rebounds vs. Belmont.
REPEAT PERFORMANCE: As a freshman last season, Deonta Vaughn had heavy expectations placed on him coming into a team with so many new faces and being the only freshman on the squad. Vaughn did not let the team down once he was inserted into the starting line-up in UC's fourth game of the year vs. Wofford. In his debut as a starter, Vaughn tallied a UC freshman single-game scoring record of 33 points vs. Wofford, connecting on nine 3-pointers, the second most by any Bearcat in UC history. Vaughn, who was among the BIG EAST's top freshman scorers last year, leads UC in scoring again this year dropping in 17.8 points a game. As the team's point guard, Vaughn has also increased his assist output from 3.5 assists per game in 2006-07 to 5.7 this year.
WARREN OUT FOR THREE WEEKS: Senior guard Jamual Warren is out three weeks after suffering a left hand injury on Nov. 11 in an automobile accident. Warren, who was expected to provide relief for Deonta Vaughn at the point position, is a key two-way player for Cincinnati, providing offense as well as being one of the Bearcats' defenders. Last year, Warren tied for the team lead with 55 steals.
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.
IT'S ACADEMIC: Last year, senior Marcus Sikes and junior Branden Miller qualified for the Dean's List academic honors after Fall quarter for having grade point averages of 3.5 or above. Two others, John Williamson and Mike Williams, posted GPAs of 3.0 or above. The team's GPA for the quarter was 2.875, a shade lower than the 2.965 of the UC general student body.
BEARCATS ON TV: This season all 30 of Cincinnati's regular-season contests can be seen on television via its local package with FOX19 (WXIX-TV) or through the conference package with the ESPN family of networks (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN Classic, ESPN 360, or ESPN Regional). The BIG EAST's ESPN Regional package, which includes the BIG EAST Game of the Week, can be seen in Cincinnati on CinCW, the digital sister station of WKRC-TV (Channel 12). CinCW is available on most local cable systems as well as satellite providers.
FOX 19 SUPPLIES TV COVERAGE: FOX19 (WXIX-TV) has been the local television home of Bearcats basketball for 26 of the past 28 years and will originate 10 games and air two others from the BIG EAST Game of the Week syndicated package with ESPN Regional. Jeff Piecoro (play-by-play) and Anthony Buford (color analyst) are the primary talent for the package.
LOOKING AHEAD: The Bearcats take next week off from playing to prepare for Fall semester finals. UC returns to the court on Saturday, Dec. 8 when they travel to Normal, Ill., to play Illinois State in the series' third meeting. This will be the first time the series has been played at ISU.