Friday, March 10, 2000

What game? Martin's injury took heart out of Bearcats




BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MEMPHIS — Another 37 minutes passed, and the Cincinnati Bearcats lost a basketball game. None of them seemed to notice, really.

        Losing meant they would be headed home sooner than planned and without the Conference USA tournament trophy they expected to win, but it was a small part of what made Thursday so traumatic.

        From the moment star center Kenyon Martin fell to the floor with a broken leg, with just 3:04 complete, UC's players struggled to direct their attention toward the game Saint Louis was playing to win. The Billikens proudly celebrated their 68-58 victory at The Pyramid, but UC paid the game little mind.

        “We came here to win, and we didn't win, so it's a failure,” Bearcats forward Pete

        Mickeal said. “It's really secondary right now, to be honest with you. The headlines are going to be, "Cincinnati lost without Kenyon.' Well, it's more than that.”

        UC (28-3), under coach Bob Huggins, never before had lost its first conference tournament game. This was different.

        The Bearcats held a four-point lead as late as the 16:06 mark of the second half, but their man-to-man defense had no bite and gave up 25 points to guard Justin Love and .478 shooting to the Billikens (17-13) as a group. UC shot .389 from the field. The scoring was led by 16 points from guard Kenny Satterfield and 13 from Mick eal.

        Following Martin's injury, which came with the Bearcats down by two, they played briefly on pure adrenaline. Forward Ryan Fletcher put back a missed 3-pointer from Steve Logan, Jermaine Tate dunked in the post, and Fletcher swept across the lane for a pull-up jumper. In two minutes, they scored six points.

        It faded quickly, though, and the Bearcats were left to cope with the reality of their reinvention as a basketball team. What were they now? They still had scorers, but where would they get their offense? For all their accomplished defenders, how could they stop the opposition from attacking the goal?

        For all the games they have won, where would they find their heart?

        “We're so used to having him there, I think we probably panicked a little bit,” Huggins said. “I wouldn't say it was youth. I think it was kind of a total team effort. Everybody kind of chimed in.”

        Their distraction was obvious as the first half continued. Down one inside the final two minutes, the Bearcats went through 25 seconds of a possession without running a play. It was just three guys dribbling the ball on the right side, one after the other, looking for a chance to make a move and finding none. Finally, Mickeal forced up a baseline jumper that rolled off the rim.

        The Bearcats went to the half trailing 30-28, only the fourth time this season they were behind at the break. Given the circumstances, it was surprising they were that close.

        “It's tough to see someone with his zest for the game go out, rather than have a chance to play a team at its highest level,” Saint Louis coach Lorenzo Romar said.

        UC built its largest advantage early (40-36) in the second half by scoring on five of its first six possessions.

        The UC defense struggled without Martin at its core, so much that Huggins was forced to shift to a 1-3-1 zone, with Mickeal at the front and Der Marr Johnson handling the back line. That slowed the Billikens to one basket in five trips, but UC could not take advantage with its own attack.

        One area of the game on which Martin had little impact was his teammates' free throw shooting, but that went, too. Down 58-54 with 3:49 left, they had made just 9-of-18. They missed four of their seven tries after changing to the zone got them stabilized defensively.

        Or maybe Martin did make a difference in their foul shooting.

        “At first, you hope it isn't true. You just keep playing like he's in foul trouble,” Fletcher said. “But it's always in the back of your mind.”

Join the discussion in our UC forum
UC title hopes fall with Martin
UC could lose No. 1 seed in NCAA
Bearcats will try to regroup
'It's broke,' and team's in a fix
Stunned fans try to keep faith
- What game? Martin's injury took heart out of Bearcats
Is UC's loss Ohio State's gain?


ST LOUIS (68)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Baniak          17   3-3   0-0   0-0  3  2    6
Jeffers         30   3-8   1-2   2-5  1  4    7
Heinrich        26   2-4   3-4   1-4  0  4    7
Love            35  8-15   6-8   1-7  4  3   25
Fergerson       21   2-6   0-0   1-1  2  2    5
Robertson       10   0-0   0-0   0-1  0  3    0
Redden          24   2-4   3-4   1-3  4  1    7
Latimer          3   0-1   0-2   0-0  0  0    0
Tatum           23   1-3   5-8   1-6  1  0    7
Braun           11   1-2   2-2   3-7  0  2    4
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 22-46 20-30 10-34 15 21   68
_______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.478, FT-.667. 3-Point Goals: 4-13, .308 (Jeffers 0-1, Heinrich 0-1, Love 3-7, Fergerson 1-4). Team rebounds: 2. Blocked shots: None. Turnovers: 12 (Jeffers 4, Love 3, Heinrich 2, Braun, Redden, Tatum). Steals: 5 (Tatum 4, Jeffers).

CINCINNATI (58) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Mickeal 38 4-11 5-8 2-5 0 3 13 Tate 30 2-3 2-4 2-5 1 3 6 Martin 3 0-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Johnson 23 2-8 1-1 2-4 2 4 6 Satterfield 37 5-11 3-6 0-2 2 5 16 Stokes 1 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Logan 23 1-5 0-0 0-1 3 1 2 Fletcher 30 5-10 0-0 4-9 1 2 11 Grove 2 0-0 0-2 0-0 0 0 0 Little 13 2-3 0-0 3-4 0 3 4 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 21-54 11-21 13-30 9 21 58 _______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.389, FT-.524. 3-Point Goals: 5-11, .455 (Mickeal 0-2, Johnson 1-3, Satterfield 3-4, Logan 0-1, Fletcher 1-1). Team rebounds: 1. Blocked shots: 3 (Satterfield, Johnson, Little). Turnovers: 12 (Satterfield 6, Fletcher 2, Johnson 2, Little, Mickeal). Steals: 6 (Mickeal 2, Satterfield 2, Johnson, Tate). __________________________________ St Louis 30 38 - 68 Cincinnati 28 30 - 58 __________________________________ Technical fouls: None. Officials: Steve Welmer, Kerry Sitton, Steven Pyatt.



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