Bearcats Open BIG EAST Season at Louisville

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Men's Basketball |

Dec. 31, 2007

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The Cincinnati Bearcats (5-7, 0-0 BIG EAST), who ended the non-conference portion of their schedule on a high note with a win over local rival Miami University on Dec. 29, jump right into BIG EAST Conference play three days later on New Year's Day. They travel to take on long-time conference foe the Louisville Cardinals (9-3, 0-0 BIG EAST) at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN. UC's win over Miami snapped a five-game losing streak for the Bearcats as they head into the BIG EAST schedule.  The Cardinals come into the contest riding a four-game winning streak that includes a 67-36 win over Iona in their last outing on Dec. 29.

 

A HOMECOMING OF SORTS: For Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin, Tuesday's game will be a homecoming on two fronts for the second-year head coach.  First, Cronin faces his former coaching boss Rick Pitino, whom he served under as an associate head coach (2001-02--2002-03) at Louisville. Those two UofL teams compiled a 44-20 record, reaching the NIT in 2002 and the NCAA Tournament in 2003. From Louisville, Cronin took his first head coaching position across the state to Murray, Ky. There, Cronin led Murray State to two NCAA Tournament appearances and a 69-24 record. 

 

Cincinnati at Louisville

 

SCOUTING THE CARDINALS: Louisville has won four straight and six of its last eight games heading into its New Year's Day match-up with Cincinnati. The Cardinals have been without the help of five different players at varying points of the season, highlighted by Naismith Award candidate David Padgett, who has missed nine games with a broken right kneecap. UofL is outscoring its opponents by 12.9 points per game, thanks in part to its second-half scoring. In the second half this season Louisville holds a 488-366 advantage in scoring -- a 10.2 points per game advantage. The Cardinals have been receiving balanced scoring this year as seven different players are netting seven or more points, led by double-figure scorers Derrick Caracter (12.9 ppg), Terrence Williams (12.7), and Earl Clark (12.5). Clark is UofL's dominant force on the glass, leading the team with 10.7 rebounds per game. Andre McGee and Williams provide Louisville with an outside presence offensively, leading the Cards from behind the 3-point line shooting .440 and .426, respectively. Defensively, Louisville is holding opponents to 58.9 points per game on .369 shooting.

 

FAMILIAR CONFERENCE FOES: Since Louisville joined Cincinnati in the Missouri Valley Conference in 1964-65, the two schools have been members of the same conference for all but nine years, as members of the Metro Conference, Conference USA, and now the BIG EAST. During those years as conference rivals, Louisville has won 40 of the 68 contests.

 

BIG EAST OPENERS: Beginning just its third season in the BIG EAST Conference, which it joined in 2005-06 with Louisville, Cincinnati is 1-1 in league openers. UC won its inaugural BIG EAST game vs. DePaul, 82-60, at home on Jan. 4, 2006 and went on to finish eighth with an 8-8 record. Last year, the Bearcats dropped a 54-42 decision to Rutgers. This will be the first time Cincinnati has opened BIG EAST play on the road.

 

THE BIG MAN, A BIG HELP OFF THE BENCH: Freshman center Anthony "Biggie" McClain lived up to his nickname against Miami providing the Bearcats a major spark off the bench. In a season-high 19 minutes, the 6-foot-11 center set or equaled career bests with 10 points, seven rebounds, and three blocked shots. One of McClain's biggest improvements, which was an emphasis in practice all week from Coach Cronin, was his play on the defensive glass where he pulled in a season-high five rebounds. Once McClain earns more minutes on the floor, he could provide UC with a "big" presence on both ends of the court. Statistically, if projecting his season averages out over 30 minutes a game, McClain would average 12.0 points, 11.3 rebounds and 4.75 blocks per game.

 

FINDING HIS SHOT AT THE RIGHT TIME: Senior guard Jamual Warren played a major role in the Bearcats' win over Miami (OH), personally leading an 8-0 run of his own with a jumper and back-to-back treys to break a 38-38 tie. Warren, a career 13.6 percent (9-of-66) 3-point shooter heading into the Miami game, knocked down 2-of-3 from behind the arc vs. the RedHawks and went on to score 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting -- one short of his career high of 16 points vs. West Virginia last season. He also added six rebounds, three assists, and a steal vs. Miami.

 

DEFENSIVE ASSISTANCE: 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 11 steals in six 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 34 steals (5.7 per game) since his return - more than half of the team's total for the year (61).

 

A DIFFERENCE A MONTH MAKES: When the calendar flipped to 2008, the Bearcats were happy to turn the page on a difficult month. After going 4-2 in the month of November, Cincinnati went 1-5 in =December, losing five straight, including a pair vs. nationally ranked opponents -- No. 17 Xavier and No. 2 Memphis before knocking off Miami (OH) on Dec. 29. The biggest problem area was UC's shooting. In the first six games of the season, the Bearcats were making .433 of their shots (46-of-135), but has connected on just .394 (132-of-335) 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 .303 in the last six games.

 

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 four games, out rebounding their opponents by 4.8 boards per game (36.8 to 32.0). Seniors John Williamson and Adam Hrycaniuk lead Cincinnati in rebounding with 6.8 and 5.9 rebounds per game, respectively.

 

BEHIND THE LINE: The Bearcats are shooting .324 from behind the 3-point line this season, ranking them 13th in the BIG EAST. Sophomore Deonta Vaughn and senior Marvin Gentry are carrying the load for Cincinnati, accounting for 61 percent of UC's 3-pointers (48-of-79) on .421 shooting. The rest of the team is 31-of-130 (.238).

 

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 7.5 points per game, Gentry has netted 45 of his 83 points this season from behind the 3-point line where he is converting 41.7 percent (15-of-36).

 

BACK ON TRACK: After scoring a combined 13 points vs. UAB and Illinois State, sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn has found his scoring touch again, notching 66 points (16.5 ppg) in his last four starts. His 17 points vs. Miami were his fourth straight and ninth overall double-digit scoring performance of the season. Vaughn leads the team and is 13th in the BIG EAST with 15.5 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 five games, scoring 52 points (10.4 ppg) and pulling down 30 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 figures in 23 of the team's 30 games. He is currently third on the team scoring with 9.3 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 10.5 points per game and joining sophomore Deonta Vaughn as the only other player averaging double digits 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 5.7 points per game, tops among UC freshmen, just ahead of Larry Davis (5.3 ppg). Not only has he provided offensive punch, he has also added 3.6 rebounds and is second on the team with 22 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 29.0 minutes per game in his last six games. After Vaughn's season average of 32.8 minutes per game, the next closest player on the team is guard Jamual Warren, who is averaging 30.2 minutes per game since his return.

 

LENDING A HELPING HAND: Sophomore point guard Deonta Vaughn is averaging a team-best 4.5 assists per game, ranking him eighth 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.

 

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. As a team, the Bearcats are shooting .757 (28-of-37) from the line down the stretch of close games.

 

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-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 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 36 points, pulled down 34 rebounds (17 offensive) and blocked 14 shots in just 90 minutes of action. Bishop and Davis have had the best offensive seasons to date, averaging 5.7 and 5.3 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.

 

LOOKING AHEAD: After opening the BIG EAST regular season at Louisville, UC finishes up a stretch of eight games that included six road contests, going to St. John's on Jan. 5. Last year, the Red Storm downed Cincinnati, 73-64, at Fifth Third Arena despite several UC comeback attempts. St. John's owns the all-time lead in the series 4-2.

 

 

 

 


 

 

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