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Transfers: Dayeesha Hollins & Lesha Dunn

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There are many factors that make a college decision difficult for recruited student athletes. If you're good enough then many institutions will be calling your name. Places you may not even be able to point out on a map could be on that list. Local colleges or universities would also recruit you because they strive to keep local talent at home. Schools that have programs with rich tradition are also always appealing because they have what it takes for you to be nationally recognized. Each student athlete's wants are different. Their backgrounds are different. Even personal situations play a key role in determining the destination of a recruited student athlete. Once the right fit comes along, however, they always know.

For Cincinnati women's basketball players Dayeesha Hollins and Lesha Dunn UC has become the right fit and after transferring from two drastically different programs they have reached their final destinations.

Speedy sophomore Dayeesha Hollins is a Cincinnati native whom played high school basketball at Winton Woods High School. Top tier programs in the Big Ten heavily recruited Hollins, who was a finalist for the Associated Press Ohio Miss Basketball award. She committed to Michigan in 2008.

"I don't regret going there at all," Hollins said. "I really loved the people there and I had a great experience, but I also don't regret leaving there."

Imposing junior Lesha Dunn is from Toronto, Canada and just finished up playing two years of community college basketball at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas. The 6'4" center was also heavily recruited out of high school as schools like Syracuse, South Florida, and Massachusetts among others were interested.

"I wanted to go to a big program straight," Dunn said. "Adversity hit and I wound up there. It was fun I met a lot of good friends that I can keep for a lifetime. I just had to roll with the punches."

Hollins had tremendous success as a freshman in Ann Arbor. She averaged 12.0 points and 3.4 rebounds in her single season in the maze and blue earning her a spot on the All-Freshman Team. Her yearning for her hometown and her family ultimately led Hollins to her decision to transfer to UC where she is expected to have a big role and start where she left off while a Wolverine.

"I know it was only three hours away but I needed my family a lot and needed that support," Hollins said. "I'm going to be one of the primary scorers, so I have to get out there and do what I need to do, get my teammates involved, and be a scoring point guard like I was at Michigan."

Dunn's reason for continuing her career at UC is not the same as Hollins. Dunn finished her two-year stint at Trinity Valley CC and was looking to jump to the next level, as all junior college or community college players tend to do. After averaging 6.9 points and 5.0 rebounds helping her team amount a 31-2 record and no. 3 national ranking, Dunn chose UC over Rutgers, UTEP, Memphis, and Mississippi State among others.

"I've always been successful in red so I knew I would have success here," Dunn joked. "If I came here I wouldn't just be a number. I would come here and play and actually help out the program. I felt at home on my visit and you can't find that everywhere."

Head coach Jamelle Elliott likes having transfers in her program because she knows that because they are required to sit out a season by the NCAA that they will have a year of practice under their belt. She does not treat them like freshman, however, buying into the program can still be a challenge.

"They are able to spend a whole year within your system, practicing every day, so that when they are eligible and able to play it's not like they're freshman for the first time," Elliott said.

Transfers are a blessing in disguise for coaching staffs because they are able to land already seasoned players that only strengthen their programs. Acquiring Hollins and Dunn is equivalent to having two five star recruits with proven experience. While Hollins may be further along than Dunn they both present upgrades at their positions.

"She [Hollins] came poised, ready to go. She had the experienced, had the talent, had the work ethic," Elliott said. "She's been a huge, huge addition to our program and she's probably the quickest basketball player I've seen with the ball."

"What she [Dunn] brings from a physical standpoint is something we don't have on our team," Elliott said. "She's definitely a presence inside because she's long, she's pretty agile, and has great fundamentals, so I think she's going to be a huge addition."

The Bearcats are poised to have a winning season in 2011-12. Hollins and Dunn hope their contributions move the team in the direction of a more prominent team in the Big East.

"We won't have a losing season," Hollins said. "I just feel like we're going to be a totally different team. People are going to be surprised at the things that we're doing."

"We simply won't lose that much," Dunn said. "I'm not looking at this to be a Cinderella story. All we want is more success."

Bearcat Coaching Staff: Katie Rokus

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Growing up in the nation's capital, assistant women's basketball coach Katie Rokus has always been around great athletic talent. From her days in high school where she was a two-sport athlete playing soccer and basketball, Rokus knows what it takes for a program to reach success and that's what she hopes to help do during her first season as one of head coach Jamelle Elliott's new assistant coaches.
 
"She's a ball of energy," Elliott said. "Being from the Washington D.C. area, she's really familiar with the AAU coaches in the Maryland, D.C. and Virginia area as well as Philadelphia and New Jersey. More importantly to be a good recruiter you have to work hard and she works extremely hard at what she does and it has been a great addition already for her to be a part of our staff."
 
Similar to last week's assistant coach spotlight of Aaron Swinson, Rokus got involved in athletics in a different sport than the one she now coaches. A soccer player during her early years, a member of her community who decided that her abilities might translate to the basketball floor turned on Rokus to basketball. Sure enough, that showed to be a turning point in her athletic career and her professional career, which still has to a lot with the sport she dominated.
 
"I made a basket every game and I got hooked," Rokus said. "From that point on I played every single day and I just became obsessed with it. That was around sixth grade."
 
Rokus was able to use athletics as a motivator when she began high school. She looked to soccer, but primarily basketball as a sense of belonging and reason to focus on academics as well. Rokus was salutatorian of her senior class in 1999.
 
"It gives you something to work towards every day, it gives you a focus," Rokus said. "Ironically it actually forces you to manage your time better, so at an earlier age your forced to really balance things to be successful."
 
Her academic background and achievements also work well with her title as assistant coach. Rokus is able to stress the importance of an education to her players while being an admirable role model in that department. Rokus is in charge of academic development within the team.
 
"I always liked school and it was actually a good balance because sports are hard and for me when that wasn't going well or when I was hurt it was easy to focus into that," Rokus said. "One of my main areas is overseeing academics and I try to express to them quality of study not quantity and that really works for them."

Experiencing adversity and overcoming that can be pivotal to coaching a team that is coming off a second-to-last finish in the Big East a year ago. During her time as a player at the University of South Carolina Aiken her and her fellow freshman inherited a 5-22 program. After their freshman season they brought the program to .500 winning percentage and then after her sophomore season the team eclipsed 20 wins, was ranked nationally, and made an NCAA tournament appearance.

"It was a really fun experienced we we're ranked academically and athletically," Rokus said. "It was the right fit for me no doubt about it."

Her career at USC Aiken was instrumental in her coaching career. She was hired by her former college coach to become an assistant coach at the University of Maryland - Baltimore County. Rokus was there for the program's first America East Conference title and NCAA tournament berth in 2007. Her teams at UMBC also led the conference in grade-point average, something that she hopes to duplicate at UC.

"If you have a staff that is working well together and you're your own team no one individual stands out more than the other," Rokus said. "I can't specifically say what it was that I did that had an impact other than completely buying into what we were doing and constantly translating that message to our players."

Rokus comes to Cincinnati after leaving her position at George Washington University where she developed and showed her skills as a talented recruiter. In two of the last three seasons, Rokus helped GWU acquire top 50 recruiting classes. Already on trips recruiting for the Bearcats, Rokus can use her experience to not only bring in the right talent, but also choose the athletes that are right for this program.

"Every situation is different and recruiting is such an inexact science," Rokus said. "You really just have to do your homework and figure out what it is that the kid is looking for. Do they want to be part of a program that's changing or do they want to go to those established programs? It's just finding that right fit."

A little hesitant to actually come interview for the job she now holds because of the lengthy distance from the Washington D.C. area, Rokus immediately fell in love with UC, however, and loved everything it had to offer.

"Not only does the campus sell itself, but with coach Elliott and what she is trying to do, I wanted to be a part of that," Rokus said. "Everybody has the same message and I just couldn't turn it down."

Rokus is the next person affiliated with the women's basketball program to preach the importance of reaching success. She understands the program Elliott is trying to build and is already impressed at where everything stands. "Success and that be winning games," Rokus said.

"I think we are successful in every part of our program so far except for that and I definitely, definitely want that."

Bearcat Coaching Staff: Aaron Swinson

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Why is it that the University of Connecticut seems to be in the mix for a national championship year after year in women's college basketball? It could be the legendary coaching that makes up the staff in Storrs, Conn. or it could be the highly talented recruits the Huskies seem to hoard like they did wins while breaking John Wooden's UCLA Bruins record streak of 88.

    Jamelle Elliott and the University of Cincinnati women's basketball program may not have the benefit of the rich tradition UConn has, but they do have a new member to their staff that has an expertise in molding young players and bringing out the best in their game.

    Bearcat nation, please welcome Aaron Swinson, who is the step in the right direction when it comes to building a talented group of women to start the evolution of a perennial program in the Queen City.

    "One of the things I was most impressed with is his player development as well especially with the post players," Elliott said. "He's a gentleman and he's always bringing great insight no matter what we do whether it's on the court or off the court."

    Swinson comes from a very competitive family. Growing up in Georgia, the newest addition to the program was initially interested in football after he idolized Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson and the type of attributes he possessed.

    "When I saw that number 29 with the Rams I knew football was going to allow me to get tough," Swinson said. "I went out on the basketball floor and brought that toughness from the football field and that's when I knew that was my passion."

    As a youngster, Swinson was forced to sit out when his family members were playing basketball due to his uncles' idea that he was too small. That idea seems like a farce based on the six foot five frame that allowed Swinson to compete in professional basketball.

    "From that point on, it started building up to me picking up a basketball and doing these little small things that would make me better," Swinson said.

    His experiences playing high school basketball lead him to have a chance to get a free education and play South Eastern Conference basketball at Auburn University. Swinson's high school coach, who he calls his mentor, was pivotal in developing his skills - which is the same thing he is trying to do with the 12 women wearing the red and black.

    Swinson's body of work speaks for itself. While a Tiger, Swinson was a three-year letterwinner and two-time captain. He was a two-time all-SEC performer and ended his career ranked second with a .609 field goal percentage, right behind his former teammate while on the Phoenix Suns, Charles Barkley. He also average 16.9 points during his career at Auburn and amounted 1,386 points, good enough for 12th all-time.

    "When I got to Auburn there was that one fit that I knew this had to be the place for me," Swinson said. "With Coach Tommy Joe Eagles and his staff and all the players that I played with I knew this is where I wanted to be and it was a great experience."

    The former Tiger had many stops playing professionally after his four years at Auburn. During the span of 11 years, Swinson played ten years internationally in Spain, Italy, France and Argentina. He earned MVP honors and won a championship while playing in Continental Basketball Association with the Yakima Sun Kings. He also enjoyed a brief career with the Phoenix Suns of the NBA in 1994.

    "My third year over in Europe I was playing with a team, Valencia, right there in Spain and I was able to be around people like Tim Perry and Reggie Fox and they taught me how to be a professional athlete," Swinson said. "With me being so young and energetic, I wanted to dunk and break every backboard they were like 'Hey, look this is how you're supposed to do things, we need you to help us.' And we were very successful with that mentality."

    Swinson then got into the field of coaching and player development leading him to the job he has now. He got his start in women's athletics as a varsity girl's basketball coach at Holland Hall Preparatory School in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Actually applying for the vacant men's coaching job, Swinson was able to get his start coaching there.

    "I didn't want to really coach, I thought I could maybe help develop players," Swinson said.

    After his time coaching high school basketball, Swinson was able to get a job as an assistant coach for the Tulsa 66ers an NBA Development League team. While in the NBA D-League, he was able to begin developing players for the next level

    "Ramon Sessions being one of the guys that I mentored a whole lot," Swinson said. "He actually got an opportunity to stay in the league and make a lot of money and that was my passion."

    Gaining coaching experience to go along with his understanding of playing the game has allowed him to implement his expertise. Before arriving at Cincinnati, Swinson was an assistant coach under his wife, Charlene Thomas-Swinson, at the University of Tulsa. He was important in developing Larrissa Williams, a Conference USA defensive player of the year. Now alongside Elliott, Swinson hopes to have the same impact on the Bearcats.

    "I'm going to do everything I can to help this program," Swinson said. "This is what this community wants to have."

    Swinson knew coming in what it means to wear the C-Paw logo. Compared to Tulsa's small community, Cincinnati not only has an bigger office for Swinson to stretch his legs out, but friendly people that make him want to be here for a long time.

    "I knew what the BIG EAST was all about and I knew the success that Coach Elliott came from," Swinson said. "For her to have me be a part of this, I need to do something to help out."

The University of Cincinnati women's basketball team held their first week practice of starting last Sunday and from the get-go the team seemed ready to work. On hiatus since last season's loss to West Virginia in the Big East tournament, head coach Jamelle Elliott has put together a new staff and added three incoming freshmen to go alongside 8 veteran players and a transfer from Michigan, Dayeesha Hollins and a junior college transfer, Lesha Dunn. The Bearcats look to improve in the third year of the Elliott era.

            Injury concerns was a constant theme during last season with a number of players unable to contribute during games and at practices. The beginning of this season has a new feel to it as injury concerns are extinguished and all 12 Bearcats have been participating in practices. The only limited participation was from Elese Daniel who is coming off an ACL injury and Chanel Chisholm who is coming off a knee scope. Both players practiced sparingly during Sunday's first practice and plan to see more action as the preseason evolves.

            "Last year was between seven and nine players that we had on the court that could practice," Elliott said. " Today we had 12 guys at a time that were ready to get in, get better, do the drills, and do the things that we need to do to be a better team."

            Elliott was very happy that the first three-hour practice of the year and the rest of the first week was a successful one. The returning players showed that their off-season workouts allowed for high energy levels on the court. The freshman showed some conditioning concerns, but they were able to get through their first week of collegiate practices for their career, a good step in the right direction for Elliott and her staff.

            "They had great attitude, the communication was good as they talked for the most part pretty well," Elliott said. "Overall I was really happy with what I got out of these guys today at the first day of practice for three hours."

            The women will continue to be pushed, as practice continues to be a daily gig. Elliott has stressed that her players must work a hard as possible in order to get into game shape.

            "When they are tired they need to continue to focus mentally and continue to encourage each other vocally," Elliott said. "When they are tired I want them to not think about themselves but think about their team."

            The only distraction to the women's basketball program has been the recent evolvement of recruiting violations that occurred last season. The program, now on probation, received these allegations stemming from a number of impermissible phone calls to recruits from an assistant coach. That coach is no longer with the team and Elliott and the program does not support the incidents that occurred almost a year ago.

            "Once this was brought to my attention I needed to set a tone for my program that this wasn't going to be something that my program stood for," Elliott said. "We have moved on from it and obviously I have two new members to my staff here now and were just hoping that we can move on."

 

Women's Basketball outlook for 2011-12

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The Bearcats ended the season with another early exit from the Big East Tournament and a losing season, but all is not lost for the youthful team.

While Cincinnait loses seniors Shareese Ulis and Shelly Bellman, it has an abundance of young talent returning next year. Check out my story on the emergence of several freshman and a Michigan transfer.  

--Here is a complete season recap.The shining moments included a hot start and a Senior Night win against No. 20 Marquette.

--Coming into head coach Jamelle Elliott's first full season with her recruits there were 10 active players on the roster. This number dwindled to seven for the bulk of the conference season after forwards Elese Daniel and Daress McClung suffered early season-ending injuries and guard Chanel Chisholm hurt her ankle on Jan. 10. With those players now healthy and another incoming class Elliott will have a fully capable hand next year.  

--First-year players Kayla Cook and Jeanise Randolph capitalized on their significant playing time to garner Big East all-rookie honors. 

"They have a year of experience so I'm expecting them to start stepping up and being leaders," Elliott said. "To not be as inconsistent as freshman. Once they become sophomores I'm expecting them to be consistent night in and night out."

---Elliott expects players to earn their minutes in preparation for this fall. As she heads into her third season at the helm she said she and the players have to progress from one season to the next to become a winning program.   

"To be honest come practice, preseason next year, everyone is going to have the same opportunity. I'm not the type of coach that says, 'Ok just because you're a senior your going to play this amount of minutes per game.' It's real healthy to have competition in practice whether they are freshman sophomores, juniors or seniors, they are going to earn their minutes based on what they show in practice."



--This will be my last blog post, you can reach me at tickelhm@mail.uc.edu.

The End of the Road

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CINCINNATI - In the midst of a perpetual losing streak, she refused to let her last home game end with another defeat.

Senior Shareese Ulis of the Cincinnati women's basketball team dialed up a career-best six 3-pointers on Senior Night and blocked the game-tying 3 with 11 seconds remaining for a thee-point win over Marquette on Feb 28.

With the victory Ulis left her mark on the program putting an end to a program-worst 13 consecutive losses.

Two years ago it wasn't a foregone conclusion that Ulis would don the red and black. After playing two years in Texas at Trinity Valley Community College, she decided she wanted to play for former Bearcat coach J. Kelley Hall. That's when things got complicated.

"Right in the middle of my recruiting, I had committed to UC," Ulis said. "Then I found out a couple days before I was supposed to sign that Coach J. Kelley Hall was fired."

Hall left Cincinnati with a 26-33 and 3-26 in the Big East during his three-year tenure.

The guard found herself in a limbo until May 5, 2009 when Jamelle Elliott was named head coach at UC. Elliott was an assistant Connecticut where she had won of six national titles.

"I didn't know who the coach was going to be and I kind of panicked, I didn't know what I was going to do or if I was going to be accepted to another school or not," Ulis said. "Then I found that [Elliott] was coming from UConn. I thought what great opportunity it would be to play under someone with so much experience and so many championships."

The two developed a bond that was crucial during a rebuilding phase for Cincinnati. Ulis was instrumental in Elliott's inaugural two years with the school starting every game and averaging 12.6 points. 

"[Ulis] brings a lot to the table as a leader and obviously as a player," Elliott said. "[Ulis] has made my first two years as a coach a lot easier. Just by having her on the floor, having her in the locker room."

The 5-foot-7 guard appreciated much her coach pushed her to maximize her potential.

"[Elliott] never allows you to take a day off," Ulis said. "Every second, every minute she is demanding the best out of you. She makes you do what exactly it is she wants. She will not accept anything less than your best."

The transition from the ranks of junior college to Division I was smooth for the senior but a clear change in the dynamics of the game.

"Coming into the Big East I had one role, playing point guard," Ulis said. "At Trinity Valley I played the one and the two sometimes the three."       

Prior to the Toledo native's last game at Fifth Third Arena, her fiancé walked her to midcourt as they honored her accomplishments. It was a surreal moment for the senior.

"After the ceremony I realized it was my last game at UC," Ulis said. "I don't think it was to point where I was going to cry. "It was said because I'm going to leave behind the relationships I built with [my teammates]. I was only here two years, I've grown to have a strong connection with everyone on the team."

Ulis finished No. 7 on the all-time school list for 3-pointers with 117, including one in 31-straight games to close out her career. None of them standout to Ulis more than the one she hit Feb. 13, 2010 with her team trailing by three. 

"When we played Syracuse and I hit the 3," Ulis said. "Coach Elliott came running from the other side of the bench with her hands up and then she gave me a huge hug at the end."

Ulis hit the shot with four seconds remaining to force overtime before winning the game.

In celebration of her 22nd birthday, which was the day before Senior Night, on Feb. 27, she spent time her family and fiancé to make sure she was well rested.

Ulis plans to earn a degree in Sociology after completing summer classes. She said she is considering being a graduate assistant after finishing school.

"I think I'll miss the staff at UC," Ulis said. "Everybody in the athletic building has helped me stay on track with my classes and make sure I'm taking the right classes I need to be in."

 

 

 


Too High of a Mountain to Climb

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For the second time this season No. 22 West Virginia blanketed Cincinnati's half-court offense.  

 

The Mountaineers ended UC's season with a 66-41 win Friday in the first round of the Big East Championship in front of 8,177 at XL Center. 

 

WVU contested nearly every shot as the Bearcats went 32.6 percent from the field. The Mountaineers cashed in 22 UC miscues for 27 points. Guard Liz Repella had four of the team's 10 steals and contributed 15 points and seven rebounds.

 

"What can I say?" coach Jamelle Elliott said. "West Virginia is a very, very, very, good defensive team. When we were coming in to the game, we knew we had to find ways to score, not even just to score, but just to get shots off against their stifling man-to-man defense and we didn't do a good job of that."

 

WVU center Asya Bussie led all scorers with 16 on 5-7 shooting.  

 

Guard Bjonee Reaves paced UC with a team-best 11 points in 39 minutes of play.

 

UC faced a double-digit deficient at the 12:36 mark 20-10, before five-straight from Reaves triggered a 7-0 run. 

 

WVU answered with a seven-consecutive points for another double-figure lead, one that it would not relinquish the rest of the night.

 

For a large part of the opening half UC kept the score close due to a 33-30 edge on the glass for the game.  

 

"We got the lead and we were defending pretty well," WVU coach Mike Carey said. "We just weren't rebounding very well. When we started rebounding better, we were able to stretch the lead."

 

The Mountaineers took a 37-23 advantage into the break after a 17-6 run.

 

"Towards the end of the first half, we allowed them to go on a little run and then obviously we weren't able to recover,' Elliott said.

 

With the loss UC dropped to 0-18 when trailing at the half. 

 

The first basket of the closing period didn't come for either team for nearly five minutes.

 

With 13:22 remaining freshman Tiffany Turner UC scored UC's first field goal.

 

A 3-pointer from senior Shelly Bellman with 9:58 to play gave them their second field goal of the second stanza to spark a 14-4 spurt. 

 

Guards Bellman and Chanel Chisholm knocked down back-to-back long balls to trim the WVU lead to 14 with 6:28 left, after it had reached 24.

 

The Bearcats got no closer the rest of the way.

 

"We get tired in the second half; that is the bottom line," Elliott said. "Playing seven players, eventually against that type of defense we just wear down."

 

Elliott said she will stay in Hartford, Conn., a couple days to watch the tournament and pick up some tips for the upcoming season. UC will get much needed rest this offseason, after dressing seven healthy players for the majority of the year.

 

Veterans Shareese Ulis and Bellman participated in their last contest as Bearcats.

 

"Obviously I am happy for my two seniors Ulis and Bellman who were able to play in this game," Elliott said. "They both had nagging injuries all year long." 

League Tourney follows Senior Night success

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They couldn't have capped their careers at Fifth Third Arena in better fashion. 

 

Senior guards Shareese Ulis and Shelly Bellman put a halt to the school-record 13-game losing streak. Bellman provided the offense in the waning moments of the contest, while Ulis came up with a steal and blocked shot on the last two possessions.

 

With Ulis stroking 20 points including a career-best six 3-pointers, the Bearcats scored 60 points for the first time since December 30, 20010, a span of 16 games.

 

"I've been feeling good lately," Ulis said. "I knew I was going to get shots it was just a matter of focusing and making them. They left me open quite a bit."

 

This performance came against No. 20 Marquette, the No. 5 seed in the upcoming conference tournament, making it even more significant.

 

In their previous three-home games the Bearcats dropped two-single digit contests and fell to Providence after a first-half lead. Monday marked UC's first league win at home this season.   

 

"I think it's just not being satisfied with a situation," Ulis said. "We know that we came out and lost a lot of tough games. We didn't give up. We continued to fight every day in practice. We continued to get better at the things we do wrong in our games."

 

Sixth-year guard Bellman battled through a torn anterior cruciate ligament and a torn patella tendon to suit up this season. The veteran was questionable for this game after hurting her shoulder and missing the previous game against Notre Dame.

 

"How fun was it for Shell Bellman to be on the floor?" head coach Jamelle Elliott said. "Before the shoot around today, we didn't know if she was going to play."

 

Ulis started every game in a Bearcat uniform and averaged a career 12.6 points per game during Elliott's inaugural two years with the program.

 

"As leaders and obviously as players," Elliott said. "They bring a lot to the table. [Ulis] especially has made my first two years as a coach a lot easier. Just by having her on the floor, having her in the locker room."

 

Following a memorable night for the two veterans is the next order of business, the Big East Championship.

 

"We have a lot of momentum right now," guard Bjonee Reaves said. "We're going to take that momentum going into the Big East Tournament and pack like we're staying [until] Tuesday. Pack a lot; we're going in thinking we are going to win. We never have gone into a game thinking we're going to lose."  

 

UC will enter as the No. 15 seed and will play No. 10 seed West Virginia Saturday at 6 p.m. in Hartford, Conn., at the XL Center.

 

In the last two tournaments UC has advanced to second round including as a 14 seed last year. In both wins UC scored more than 60 points while holding opponents in the 50s.  

 

"One game at a time, one game at a time," Elliott said. "Obviously we're going into the Big East Tournament on a high. We just beat a top-20 team. I think if nothing else we're going into the tournament believing that no matter [whom] we play against we should be able to compete. I'm not going to do anything different."

 

For Bellman and Ulis it's one and done. Their careers will come to end with the next UC loss.

 

"The only difference know is the next time [our seniors] lose, they're not going to put on a Cincinnati Bearcat uniform anymore," Elliott said. "I'm going to use that as a motivator for our players that are going to be here next year. Let them know that they need to leave it all out on the court. If not for you, but for the two guys that have given their heart and soul for this program."

 

The Mountaineers enter the postseason as a double-digit seed despite a No. 22 ranking. In the latest ESPN.com Bracketology 10 Big East teams are projected to make the NCAA tournament including West Virginia. 

 

WVU throttled UC on Jan. 8 at Morgantown, in their last meeting 72-44. It held UC to less than 20 percent shooting and blocked 17 shots. The Mountaineers are limiting teams to 52.4 points per game, the second lowest point total in the league. 

 

"It's hard in this conference," Elliott said. "This conference is a monster. It's even more of a monster when you're at the bottom trying to fight your way up. You just crawl and you crawl and you're trying to make [up] ground."

 

Ulis is averaging a career 13.5 points a game in the Big East Championship. If the Bearcats can shoot the ball consistently, they have a chance of making some noise.  

 

"That's the good thing about March - anything can happen," Elliott said.

 

No. 7 St. John's awaits the Cats if they can pull off a round-one upset.

 

"Once that ball goes up and it's time to play, we'll see," Elliott said.   

 

 


Notes:


--- Freshman Kayla Cook was named the Big East Rookie of the Week on Tuesday following a career-high 18 against Notre Dame and averaged 12 points in the last three games. Cook hit all four of her shots in a 13-point effort last Tuesday.


---Bellman earned the Big East Sportsmanship Award Thursday. Bellman started 23 games this year after missing two seasons due to knee surgeries. The senior is the first Bearcat to be recognized with this achievement. This comes six years after being named to the Big East All-Freshman team.


---Guard Kayla Cook and forward Jeanise Randolph were recognized this season with Big East All-Freshman team honors. Cook started every game this season while averaging 8.2 points, second best on the team. Randolph contributed 6.8 points a game and 6.3 rebounds a game in conference action. This is the first time UC has had a pair of players named to the first-year conference team.   

 

 

UC stuns No. 20 Marquette on senior night

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CINCINNATI - Trailing by two points with 1:25 remaining, senior Shelly Bellman sunk a clutch corner 3-pointer and broke out with a huge grin that said it all.

 

Cincinnati ended a 13-game slump that dated back to Jan. 5, with a 65-62 upset over No. 20 Marquette on Monday at Fifth Third Arena.

 

"We can't stop smiling," senior Shareese Ulis said. "It's been a long season. We showed games where we could come out and compete with teams who were ranked. We saw games where we could come out and lose by 30 or 40 points. We know that we can compete. It's just a matter of putting together a complete 40-minute game. Tonight we did that."

 

Bellman scored the Bearcats' (9-19, Big East 2-14) final five points with last two coming from the charity stripe to extend their lead. The veteran didn't think twice about her biggest shot of the season prior to the free throws. 

 

"To be honest I had no idea there was a minute left in the game," Bellman said. "I was just so into the game. And as I was running back on defense and looked up at the scoreboard."

 

Senior Shareese Ulis blocked the potential game-tying shot on the Golden Eagles' (22-7, 10-6) final possession to seal the win. 

 

It was second-year head coach Jamelle Elliott's first win over a ranked opponent.


Elliott embraced her fourth-year players at midcourt following the victory. 

 

"It was just all love," Elliott said. "I wanted to get to my two seniors because this was their night. My pregame speech was look, 'play as hard as you can for the two guys who this is going to be their last game on [their home] floor.' I had them look around the room because the next time we sit in [our locker room], there is going to be two very important guys that are not going to be apart of [it]."

 

Ulis knocked down a career-high six 3-pointers on 12 attempts for a game-best 20 points. Bellman contributed 12 points, eight assists and eight rebounds, nearly accounting for a triple-double.  Junior Bjonee Reaves added to the UC long-range onslaught going 4-7 with 12 points.

 

The Bearcats finished 44.8 percent from 3-point line while netting 13, their most in three years. UC hit the 60-point plateau for the first time in 16 contests.

 

With the score knotted at 38, Ulis drilled back-to-back buckets from distance and Reaves followed suit with two 3-pointers for a slim 50-48 lead at the halfway point of the closing period.   

 

The two squads traded baskets for the next seven minutes; there were eight lead changes in the second half. Golden Eagle guard Tatiyiana McMorris, who had a team-best 18 points, then nailed a triple to put her team up by four with 2:54 left.

 

UC answered with a Jeanise Randolph layup and execution on both ends in the final two minutes.

 

"My team deserved this win tonight," Elliott said. "They could have easily packed it in two weeks ago, three weeks ago and said 'Look I can't wait for this season to be over. This losing streak sucks, I don't want to work hard, I don't want to play hard, I don't want to compete hard.' And none of that ever snuck into my team at any point."

 

Bellman, Chisholm and Ulis poured in three-straight shots from distance to give

UC a seven-point edge, its largest of the game, at the 2:31 mark of the first half after trailing by three.  

 

"Hopefully today we learned how to win," Elliott said. "Getting down against a top-20 team in the country, having to fight back. I told [my team], 'Remember this feeling, remember this feeling, because I want to have this feeling, when we get back in conference play next year, more than two times.' "

Cats fight through losses

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Despite a current 12-game losing streak, Cincinnati isn't calling it quits with two games remaining before its conference tournament.

 

After winning at South Florida in its second game of league play, UC is in the cellar of the league with one win.

 

The Big East is arguably the best league in the nation with five teams in the AP top-25. 

 

This hasn't kept the Bearcats from fighting, on Tuesday they played with poise and an offensive spark that had been missing in conference action.

 

In the first half freshman Kayla Cook used a pump fake to lose her defender. Bjonee Reaves' man then switched to Cook leaving Reaves with an open 3-pointer that she nailed providing UC with its largest lead of the game 30-11.

 

They took Syracuse (20-7, Big East 8-6) to the wire before falling by two. 

 

"At the end of the day, I'm proud of my team," said Cincinnati head coach Jamelle Elliott. "My team showed me that we are capable of being a good team today. We executed our game plan to a T."

 

This came after Elliott said her team didn't have the talent to compete in the league in a press conference following a loss to Providence on Saturday.

 

The Bearcats shot 47.8 percent from the field and 60 percent from distance in the opening half, in a season littered with poor shooting nights.

 

"I feel like this is a game we're going to build off," Cook said.

 

Shareese Ulis reinforced that this effort could serve as a second wind for her team.

 

"It definitely [gives] us confidence moving forward because this is the team we started off being," Shareese Ulis said. "The games that we played earlier in the season we came out and competed for 40 minutes and we stayed around with teams that were ranked top-5 in the nation."

 

Ulis was referring to the 8-point defeat against No. 4 Xavier on December 12, 2010, as they showed their potential. The Bearcats hit 41.5 percent of their field goals.

 

Ulis also scored at least 20 points on both occasions.

 

This contest marked the second time in six games that UC's leading scorer has hit double digits.

 

"[Ulis] had a little bit of a bounce in her step today," Elliott. "One of the things I told her after the game was 'look it doesn't matter how you play from here on out. The way you played today that's how I'm going to remember you.' That's the image in my head that I'm going to remember the kid by. If she has three or four more games like that in her then that'd be great too. It was great for her at least as her career is closing to have one more of these games in her."

 

It is evident that Ulis hasn't been 100 percent healthy this season. She hasn't participated in practice recently due to sore knees, but clearly UC can match up with quality teams when Ulis develops a rhythm and her team shoots well.

 

One thing that the Bearcats have consistently done this year is fight for every loose ball and maximized their effort.   

 

In one instance Tuesday, Jeanise Randolph hustled for a ball heading out of bounds by diving over the team bench. This squad hardly has the resemblance of team in the midst of a slew of losses.  

 

"At the end of the day I'm proud of my team," Elliott said.

 

The most positive emergence for Cincinnati this year has been freshman Randolph. The rookie netted a combined 31 points in two games prior to Syracuse.

 

The forward is second on the team in rebounding at 5.5 a game and has recorded two double-doubles this campaign. She had a team-high seven rebounds in her last outing versus all-league caliber Kayla Alexander at 14.5 points per game and 7.5 boards. 

 

"I told [Randolph] she was right there," Elliott said indicating she was nearly as good as Alexander. "She's right here. A little better balance, a little more explosiveness, a little better footwork, better extension on her layups. If nothing else she should build off this game. She was able to get shots off against a kid that was four inches taller than her. She's this close. It's just a matter of her going this much further in order to be as good of a player as [Alexander]. And she can be. She has all the potential in the world."

 

Randolph has started the last nine Big East games gaining valuable experience as she strives to be a presence on the low block for the next three years.      

 

UC faces No. 8 Notre Dame tomorrow in South Bend, Ind., at 2 p.m.