Jan. 20, 2010
By Bo Jessee
Yancy Gates knew his team needed him to have a big game against Notre Dame, and he responded.
The sophomore forward pulled down a season-high six offensive rebounds and scored the game-winning basket but his biggest contribution was holding the Big East's leading scorer, Luke Harangody, to a season-low 14 points on 5-for-20 shooting.
"Hopefully success will motivate him," coach Mick Cronin said. "The thing that scares you as a coach is that certain players, as soon as they play well, they rest. You have got to try to take it to another level; that's how you become great."
Gates said consistency is something he and Cronin have talked about regularly this season.
"It's just a matter of consistent effort, playing as hard as you can possibly play at all times," Cronin said. "That's a trained skill. Some guys are born that way; other guys have to train themselves to become that type of player and it's not easy. Him becoming a consistent player coincides with us becoming one of the top teams in our conference."
Ever since Cronin essentially benched Gates in a game against Lipscomb on Dec. 19, the sophomore's play has been more consistent. Despite battling foul trouble in a few of the contests, Gates is averaging 11.5 points and 8.5 rebounds while shooting 60 percent from the field in Big East play.
Gates said he noticed his team plays better when he is more aggressive.
"It makes a big difference when you have a big man that's active on defense and offense, Gates said. "On offense you can draw attention even if it's just me rolling into the paint not even getting the ball. And on defense it's about blocking out the other big man, making sure he can't get the rebound even if I can't."
To help him be more consistent during games, Gates said he has tried to take a more focused approach in practice.
"I start getting ready for the game in practice," Gates said. "When we are going over what the other team likes to do or how they are going to play us or how we are going to play them, I try to focus in and it helps me carry it over when the game starts."
Cronin said he thinks paying more attention to strategy has been another reason for Gates' improvement.
In high school, Gates simply overpowered undersized defenders with his strength and athleticism. Cronin said Gates is just now learning how to play with his back to the basket, because he never had to do that in high school.
"He had bad habits of turning the wrong way in the post, turning the way a left-hander should turn," Cronin said. "So he's worked hard to develop better habits with his foot work and to set up a go-to move."
Gates' continued improvement as a low-post scorer should bode well for the Bearcats in the physical Big East conference.
"When he's in the game, we are a better offensive team because you have a low post presence," Cronin said. "If you don't have a low post presence, it's hard to score in the half court."
Gates will have another tough assignment Wednesday night against a South Florida team that boasts two physical post players, Toarlyn Fitzpatrick and Jarrid Famous.
"They are like Steve (Toyloy) and Yancy as far as size and strength," Cronin said.
"Both those guys are physical if you don't block them out they'll pound you on the glass."