Men's Basketball |
Dec. 29, 2007
In the middle of a stretch of eight games that include six on the road, the Bearcats (4-7, 0-0 BIG EAST) return to Cincinnati for its annual holiday match-up at U.S. Bank Arena with area rival Miami University (6-5, 0-0 MAC) on Saturday, Dec. 29 at 8 p.m. UC is coming off a tough 85-77 road loss at North Carolina State, while Miami is reeling from a 78-54 defeat at Kansas last Saturday. The 143-game series vs. Miami is the oldest and most-played rivalry in UC's basketball history with the Bearcats winning each of the last nine meetings, including the last five in U.S. Bank Arena, and owning a 90-53 lead overall. Cincinnati is 8-2 vs. Miami in the U.S. Bank Arena/Riverfront Coliseum.
JUST PASSING THROUGH: The game vs. Miami at U.S. Bank is only the Bearcats' second appearance in Cincinnati since the beginning of the month. Cincinnati is in the midst of an eight game stretch in which it plays six of eight games on the road from Dec. 1 through Jan. 5. UC is 0-5 during the stretch.
SCOUTING THE REDHAWKS: Miami has won two of its last three games with its only loss at No. 3 Kansas last Saturday. The RedHawks are one of the nation's top defensive teams, giving up just 60.3 points per game, despite allowing opponents to shoot .466 from the field. Miami limits its opponents offensively by running an efficient offense that scores on .462 percent of its shots and gives up just 29.2 rebounds per game. Junior Michael Bramos (17.7 ppg) and senior Tim Pollitz (17.1 ppg) provide most of Miami's offense, scoring 57 percent of the RedHawks 60.8 points per game. Bramos and Pollitz are joined by junior college transfer Kenny Hayes, junior Tyler Dierkers and sophomore Alex Moosmann to make a five-man line-up that each averages at least 28.0 minutes per game. Besides being second on the team in scoring, the 6-foot-5 Pollitz leads the squad with 7.0 rebounds per game and assists with 45.
BACK VS. THE MAC: Cincinnati and Miami University have been long-time rivals, dating back to the first game in the series in 1903-04. But from 1947-1953, the rivalry took on special meaning as Miami joined Cincinnati, a charter member, in the Mid-American Conference. After the Bearcats captured the first five league titles from 1947-51, Miami won a least a share of the next two before UC's departure from the MAC. Overall, the Bearcats own a 187-116 (.617) record vs. teams currently from the MAC.
UC AT U.S. BANK ARENA: This week's game brings Cincinnati back to one of its former home courts. The Bearcats played at U.S. Bank Arena, then known as Riverfront Coliseum, from 1976-87. UC has compiled a record of 115-50 (.697) in games played in the building, which includes championships of the Conference USA Tournaments played there in 2002 and 2004. The Bearcats have won 11 consecutive games at U.S. Bank Arena.
JUST PASSING THROUGH: The game vs. Miami at U.S. Bank is the Bearcats' second appearance in Cincinnati since the beginning of the month. After opening the month with three straight road games at UAB (Dec. 1), Illinois State (Dec. 8), Xavier (Dec. 12), UC played Memphis at home on Dec. 19 before heading back out to Raleigh last weekend to take on North Carolina State on Dec. 23. After the Miami game, UC hits the road for two more - Louisville (Jan. 1) and St. John's (Jan. 5) - before opening up the home portion of its BIG EAST schedule on Jan. 9 vs. Syracuse.
NEXT ...: At North Carolina State, head coach Mick Cronin employed a slightly different strategy against the Wolfpack looking to play a more up-tempo style. In the game, Cronin used all 13 players at his disposal, getting eight different Bearcats at least 18 minutes of action. To keep each player fresh and the pressure on NCSU, Cronin made 83 substitutions in the contest. The distributed playing time also led to Deonta Vaughn, Adam Hrycaniuk, and John Williamson each reaching double-digit scoring and another three players posting at least seven points each.
YIKES! WATCH OUT FOR SIKES: Senior forward Marcus Sikes, who had been struggling from the field, shooting 25.7 percent through the first 10 games, started to come alive for Cincinnati at North Carolina State. Sikes, who was the team's top 3-point shooter last season with a .425 shooting percentage (45-of-106), went 3-for-4 vs. the Wolfpack for eight points, including a 1-for-2 night from 3-point range. It was his second trey in as many games.
DEFENSIVE HELP: The return of Jamual Warren to the line up at UAB after his hand injury has paid immediate dividends for UC defensively as he has already tallied a team-high 10 steals in five games. Last season, Cincinnati ranked eighth in the BIG EAST in steals per game (7.67) and Warren averaged 1.83 of the total. Before Warren's return, the Bearcats were only making 4.85 steals per game -- last in the BIG EAST -- but the Bearcats have made 31 steals (6.2 per game) since his return - more than half of the team's total for the year (58).
A DIFFERENCE A MONTH MAKES: As the calendar is ready to flip to 2008, the Bearcats will be happy to turn the page as well on a difficult month of December. After going 4-2 in the month of November, Cincinnati is winless in the month of December, losing five straight, including a pair vs. nationally ranked opponents - No. 17 Xavier and No. 2 Memphis. The biggest problem area has been UC's shooting. In the first six games, the Bearcats were making .433 of their shots (46-of-135), but has connected on just .395 (115-of-291) since. The shooting difference is highlighted when you examine the team's 3-point marksmanship, which has dropped from .341 in the first six games to .302 in the last five games.
BACK TO WORK: Senior guard Marvin Gentry, who was taken off the floor at the Xavier game on Dec. 12 after colliding with teammate Deonta Vaughn and suffering a head injury, missed the Memphis game but returned to the line-up at North Carolina State where he played 19 minutes and scored nine points. The team's fourth-leading scorer, averaging 7.9 points per game, Gentry has netted 45 of his 79 points this season from behind the 3-point line where he is converting a team-best .455 (15-of-33).
BEHIND THE LINE: The Bearcats are shooting .322 from behind the 3-point line this season, ranking them 14th in the BIG EAST. Sophomore Deonta Vaughn and senior Marvin Gentry are carrying the load for Cincinnati, accounting for 62 percent of UC's 3-pointers (47-of-75) on .440 shooting. The rest of the team is 28-of-124 (.226).
BACK ON TRACK: After scoring a combined 13 points vs. Illinois State and Xavier, sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn has found his scoring touch again, notching 49 points (16.3 ppg) in his last three starts. Vaughn leads the team with 15.4 points per game.
WILL-I-AM-SON: Senior forward John Williamson, who averaged 13.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game last season, has broken out of a slump in his last four games, scoring 46 points (11.6 ppg) and pulling down 28 rebounds. In the four games prior to Illinois State, Williamson recorded 6.0 points per game on 10-of-32 shooting (.313). Williamson was "Mr. Consistent" for UC last season, scoring in double digits in 23 of the team's 30 games. He is currently third on the team scoring with 9.5 points per game.
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 11.5 points per game and joining sophomore Deonta Vaughn as the only other player averaging double-digit points on the team. The 6-foot-10 post player is also Cincinnati's second-leading rebounder with 5.9 rebounds per game.
BISHOP TAKES QUEEN (CITY): Freshman forward/guard Rashad Bishop has quickly become one of the Bearcats' top all-around newcomers. Starting five games for UC this season, Bishop has scored in double digits three times, including two games with a season-high 12 points (Bowling Green and Fairfield). After breaking out of a mini slump vs. Memphis with nine points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals, Bishop is averaging 5.9 points per game, tops among UC freshmen, just ahead of Larry Davis (5.8 ppg). Not only has he provided offensive punch, he has also added 3.6 rebounds and is second on the team with 20 assists. Recently, ESPN.com named Bishop one of the BIG EAST's top impact freshmen.
30-MINUTE MAN ...: Through Cincinnati's first six games, sophomore point guard Deonta Vaughn was 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. With the return of UC's other veteran point guard Jamual Warren to the line-up at UAB, Vaughn has been able to scale back, playing just 30.6 minutes per game in his last five. After Vaughn's season average of 33.8 minutes per game, the next closest player on the team is center Adam Hrycaniuk, who is averaging 28.7 minutes per game.
LENDING A HELPING HAND: Sophomore point guard Deonta Vaughn is averaging a team-best 4.8 assists per game, ranking him seventh in the BIG EAST. Vaughn could be the first player to dish out 5.0 or more assists per game since Taron Barker (5.0) in 2002-03.
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.
STRONG ON THE GLASS: After being out-rebounded three straight games vs. Fairfield (-12 rebounding margin), UAB (-7), and Illinois State (-2), the Bearcats have been strong to the glass in their last three games, out rebounding their opponents by four boards per game (36.7 to 32.7). UC's 43 rebounds at Xavier are second-most this season, one short of its 44 against USC Upstate. Seniors John Williamson and Adam Hrycaniuk lead Cincinnati in rebounding with 7.2 and 5.9 rebounds per game, respectively.
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.
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 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 attest to that. Larry Davis and Rashad Bishop have combined for five double-digit scoring nights and center Anthony McClain has scored 26 points, pulled down 27 rebounds (15 offensive) and blocked 11 shots in just 71 minutes of action. Bishop and Davis have had the best offensive seasons to date, averaging 5.9 and 5.8 ppg, respectively.
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 are being broadcast 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: Saturday's match-up with Miami marks the end of the Bearcats non-conference portion of their schedule and the start of BIG EAST play. Following the RedHawks, Cincinnati opens up action with two road games at Louisville (Jan. 1) and St. John's (Jan. 5). The New Year's Day game vs. Louisville will mark Mick Cronin's first trip back to Freedom Hall as UC's head coach. Cronin coached two season at Louisville for Rick Pitino before taking the head job at Murray State in 2003.