UC gets a 'great' victory
Huggins happy with opening win

Friday, November 20, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Pete Mickeal grabs one of his 10 rebounds away from Lamar Odom.
(AP photo)

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. - They carried a double-digit advantage the last six minutes of the game and stayed ahead of Rhode Island for more than three-fourths of the game. The Cincinnati Bearcats made it look easy.

"I wouldn't call it easy," said center Kenyon Martin. "I would say we came out and did what we wanted to do. There's nothing easy on this level."

No. 17 UC opened its season Thursday night by slapping a 70-53 embarrassment on No. 25 Rhode Island (2-2) at the Providence Civic Center, by outrebounding the Rams (48-43) and holding them to .328 shooting, by limiting sophomore star Lamar Odom to eight points on 4-of-12 shooting and by squeezing a combined 36 points from five players who were not playing Division I basketball a year ago.

Kenyon Martin looks for a shot against Lamar Odom and Luther Clay.
(AP photo)

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The UC frontcourt of juniors Ryan Fletcher, Pete Mickeal and Kenyon Martin produced 37 points and 33 rebounds to 18 points and 18 rebounds for Odom, Antonio Reynolds-Dean and Luther Clay.

If it wasn't easy or effortless, it was decisive.

"They're very athletic," said URI coach Jim Harrick, "and they just killed us inside."

Center Martin (16 points, 16 rebounds) and small forward Mickeal (15, 10) each recorded double-doubles, and they were primarily responsible for the defensive effort on Odom and Clay, who entered averaging a combined 26.7 points.

Mickeal invaded Odom's space for most of the evening, leveraging himself against Odom's lower body whenever the 6-10 playmaker caught the ball. Odom scored the Rams' second basket, then was shut out until he followed his own miss with 5:30 left in the first half.

Aaron McGhee leans into Lamar Odom.
(AP photo)

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URI point guard Preston Murphy said UC tries to "humble" its opponents with physical defense. Apparently, it worked.

"It felt alright," Mickeal said. "I wasn't satisfied. He had eight points, and I don't think he should have scored two points."

The Bearcats missed their first six shots before calming themselves and scoring on four consecutive trips, including dunks by Martin and guard Melvin Levett that gave them their first lead, 8-7, with 13:57 left.

They turned up their pressure in that stretch, but it was the only time they made extensive use of a fullcourt scheme. The rest of the way they attempted to play sound halfcourt defense and keep Odom from entering the lane with the ball. On offense, they took advantage of URI's decision to extend and deny passes to the wing by slashing through the gaps so created and attacking the basket.

Rhode Island blocked three shots early in the game to dissuade the Bearcats, but Cincinnati recovered to score on nine of 10 possessions from the close of the first half through the beginning of the second to build their first double-figure advantage, 39-29 with 17:36 left.

"It's funny," Harrick said. "We just lost our enthusiasm to play."

Ryan Fletcher tries to block David Arigbabu.
(AP photo)

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When UC stretched its lead to 14 points with 11:52 minutes left on two free throws from freshman forward Eugene Land and a scoop basket by Mickeal over Odom, Harrick shifted his team into a 2-3 zone, an unusual move for a team facing a double-digit deficit. Three Bearcats possessions against the zone permitted Rhody to cut four points from its deficit, but consumed nearly four minutes because of one trip in which they managed three offensive rebounds and four shots - all missed.

"The zone achieved everything we wanted to achieve," Harrick said, "except we couldn't get a rebound."

Most teams find it more difficult to rebound out of a zone defense because it's harder to locate opponents for block-outs, and that plagued the Rams. UC's next three buckets were scored on offensive rebounds. The Bearcats got nine offensive rebounds in the first five possessions after the switch.

"There's a lot of gaps in zones that people don't realize out there," Martin said. "And we tried to exploit them."

The Bearcats broke it open after Reynolds-Dean missed the front end of a bonus free throw situation - which he earned when Martin committed his fourth foul trying to deflect a pass 20 feet from the goal.

UC turned the rebound into a three-point play by Mickeal, and then point guard Michael Horton intercepted a lazy pass by Odom and dashed for a fastbreak layup. It was a 15-point lead then, and it was over.

"In February, this would be an unbelievable game," coach Bob Huggins said. "Now, from a basketball standpoint, they don't get into their offense well, and we don't rebound the way we normally do, defend the way we normally do. It's a work in progress."

But, Huggins said, "It's a great win."

Huggins: Law firm prolonged investigation
Basketball story list

                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Mickeal         28  7-12   1-1  5-10  2  3   15
Fletcher        31   2-6   2-2   4-7  0  1    6
Martin          36  8-10   0-2  5-16  2  4   16
Mitchell        12   1-3   1-2   0-2  2  0    4
Levett          34  3-16   0-0   1-3  1  1    7
Horton          16   2-3   1-2   0-2  2  2    5
Logan           19   2-7   0-0   2-2  0  1    4
Land             9   1-4   2-2   0-1  1  0    4
Mcghee          15   2-5   4-5   1-1  1  5    9
TOTALS         200 28-66 11-16 18-44 11 17   70

Percentages: FG-.424, FT-.688. 3-Point Goals:
3-13, .231 (Mitchell 1-2, Levett 1-6, Logan 0-3,
Mcghee 1-2). Team rebounds: 4. Blocked shots: 6
(Martin 3, Fletcher, Mitchell, Levett).
Turnovers: 9 (Fletcher 3, Levett 3, Martin 2,
Mickeal). Steals: 6 (Fletcher, Horton, Levett,
Martin, Mickeal, Mitchell).

                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Odom            30  4-12   0-0   3-9  2  2    8
Reynolds-dean   25   1-8   5-7   1-6  1  2    7
Clay            25   1-4   1-2   1-3  0  1    3
Bell            34  8-12   1-4   1-2  0  2   17
Murphy          32  3-11   0-0   2-3  2  1    7
Jefferson       16   1-5   0-0   2-5  0  4    3
Arigbabu        12   0-4   0-1   3-4  1  1    0
Brown           18   2-6   0-0   3-5  3  2    4
Vinson           8   2-5   0-0   1-1  0  2    4
TOTALS         200 22-67  7-14 17-38  9 17   53

Percentages: FG-.328, FT-.500. 3-Point Goals:
2-11, .182 (Odom 0-2, Bell 0-1, Murphy 1-5,
Jefferson 1-3). Team rebounds: 5. Blocked shots:
6 (Brown 3, Odom, Reynolds-dean, Clay).
Turnovers: 10 (Odom 4, Murphy 2, Reynolds-dean 2,
Bell, Clay). Steals: 3 (Murphy 2, Bell).
Cincinnati         31   39  -   70
Rhode Island       27   26  -   53
Technical fouls: None.  A: 7,719. Officials:
Larry Lembo, Mike Sanzere, Ted Valentine.