Sunday, December 28, 1997
Brannen, Levett rescue UC
Bearcats win in OT 74-66

The Cincinnati Enquirer

UC's Michael Horton tries to drive around UMass' Monty Mack.
(AP photo)
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CLEVELAND - Bobby Brannen waited a while to become a hero. Melvin Levett waited nearly all night. But with the Cincinnati Bearcats nearly out of bodies and just about out of time, they produced some of the biggest numbers and biggest plays of a 74-66 upset of Massachusetts.

Playing before 12,324 Saturday night at Gund Arena without suspended starters D'Juan Baker, Kenyon Martin and Ruben Patterson, the Bearcats recovered from a late six-point deficit to force overtime on Levett's two free throws with 16.3 seconds left.

The Bearcats (7-2) rode an incredible effort from Brannen, who recovered from a difficult first half to finish with a career-high 32 points - and a record for Rock 'n Roll Shootout participants.

''I'm glad the team stuck with me,'' Brannen said, ''because I was cold.''

Trailing 62-60, UC called timeout with 19.7 seconds left after Brannen rebounded a missed free throw by guard Shawn Myrick, who supported Brannen's effort with career highs of 17 points and eight rebounds off the bench.

The Bearcats set up a play that isolated forward Melvin Levett on UMass' Mike Babul, and Levett's drive to the goal drew a foul. His two free throws tied the game. To that point, Levett had scored just one point and failed to make a field goal. Huggins called his number, anyway.

''The pressure was on,'' Levett said, ''and I kind of wanted to be in that situation with the problems I had in the game. It shows he has confidence in me, and it feels good when the coach will come to you in the clutch.''

UMass (6-5) had a good shot at winning in regulation, even though it appeared to wait too long to attempt the last shot. Charlton Clarke cleared Levett away near the right block and got off a one-hander that bounced up and off the front rim as the buzzer sounded.

''They played hard, fought the whole game, but I think that was kind of a back-breaker for them,'' Brannen said. ''They kind of dropped after that.''

If the reality of overtime didn't knock back UMass, Levett's three-pointer to open the period surely did. It was his only basket of the game.

After UMass point guard Jon DePina made one free throw, Myrick missed two that could have been costly. He would redeem himself later, after Clarke hit a 14-foot jumper, and DePina followed with a free throw to put the Minutemen in front by one.

UC got Brannen into the lane, where he was fouled and made both free throws to regain the lead for good, 67-66. The Minutemen did not score for the last 1:44 of overtime.

Forward Tyrone Weeks missed a baseline jumper for UMass, and the Bearcats tried to run down the shot clock and nearly ran it too far. Myrick had to throw up another off-balance 25-footer, but it snapped through the net to make it 70-66 with 38 seconds left in overtime.

Levett picked up a steal to end UMass' next trip, then was fouled intentionally on the break. That clinched the win.

''Programs like ours,'' Huggins said, ''are supposed to have guys that step up and make plays.''

UC used three zones, man-to-man and occasional fullcourt pressure to keep the Minutemen uncomfortable. After hitting just 3-of-11 from the field before the break, Brannen made his first four shots in the second half. Brannen's work forced UMass' Weeks into serious foul trouble.

When Weeks nailed UC's Michael Horton on a fastbreak, it was his fourth personal and 12 minutes remained. He finished with eight points and 13 rebounds, but had 10 of those boards in the first half.

UMass cut a four-point UC lead in half when the Bearcats committed a costly error. Out of a television timeout with 7:44 left, they sent six players onto the floor. Levett hustled off the court when the Minutemen's bench protested, but it was a technical foul. Mack made the second of two free throws to make it a one-point game.

That, in a sense, was the difference between a regulation Bearcats win and the necessity for overtime.

UC fell behind with 4:21 left, when DePina hit a top-of-the-key three-pointer. It was part of a run that put UMass in front, 58-52, before the Bearcats rallied.

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MASSACHUSETTS (66) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Clarke 44 3-10 0-0 1-3 2 3 6 Mack 33 7-16 1-2 0-2 4 5 16 Babul 25 1-3 1-2 1-1 0 2 3 Weeks 31 4-6 0-0 2-13 0 4 8 Basit 23 3-6 2-3 5-7 0 4 8 Ketner 36 4-9 2-2 1-8 2 4 10 Depina 31 5-12 4-9 0-2 1 4 15 Kirkland 2 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 0 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 225 27-63 10-18 10-36 9 27 66 _______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.429, FT-.556. 3-Point Goals: 2-9, .222 (Clarke 0-5, Mack 1-3, Depina 1-1). Team rebounds: 5. Blocked shots: 11 (Basit 6, Ketner 3, Weeks 2). Turnovers: 14 (Clarke 4, Depina 3, Mack 3, Basit 2, Babul, Weeks). Steals: 9 (Weeks 6, Clarke 2, Mack).

CINCINNATI (74) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Horton 35 4-7 2-4 0-2 4 3 10 Levett 38 1-13 4-6 2-4 0 2 7 Fletcher 34 1-7 0-0 2-8 2 2 2 Brannen 42 9-22 14-18 5-12 1 3 32 Petrus 34 3-4 0-0 0-5 1 3 6 Jackson 13 0-0 0-0 1-1 0 1 0 Myrick 29 6-8 2-7 2-8 0 3 17 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 225 24-61 22-35 12-40 8 17 74 _______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.393, FT-.629. 3-Point Goals: 4-11, .364 (Levett 1-7, Fletcher 0-1, Myrick 3-3). Team rebounds: 5. Blocked shots: 2 (Fletcher, Horton). Turnovers: 13 (Horton 9, Levett 2, Brannen, Fletcher). Steals: 7 (Horton 2, Levett 2, Myrick 2, Fletcher). _______________________________________ Massachusetts 30 32 4 - 66 Cincinnati 24 38 12 - 74 _______________________________________ Technical fouls: Cincinnati 1 (Bench). A: 12,324. Officials: David Dodge, David Bair, John Moreau.