Thursday, January 22, 2004

Showdown becomes letdown for Bearcats


Team's first loss this season matches
worst of Huggins era

By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo]
UC coach Bob Huggins shouts at his team during a timeout in Wednesday's 27-point loss to Louisville. "We've gotten beat, but we've never gotten beat like that," he said. "That was embarrassing."
Photos by Ernest Coleman/The Cincinnati Enquirer)

[photo]
Cincinnati's Nick Williams comes crashing down on Louisville's Otis George Wednesday. The Bearcats got into foul trouble, taking out of their normally intense style of play.
[photo]
UC's Eric Hicks (right) and Louisville's Luke Whitehead battle for the ball in the first half Wednesday. Cincinnati led by as many as seven points in the first half but trailed 44-40 at the break.
 
FOR MORE
LOUISVILLE - Determined to prove wrong critics who have questioned their schedule, the University of Cincinnati Bearcats instead provided them with more ammunition.

The sixth-ranked Bearcats (13-1 overall, 4-1 in Conference USA) were unable to generate much offense off their usually reliable full-court press and suffered a 93-66 loss Wednesday night to fifth-ranked Louisville (14-1, 5-0) before 20,079 fans, the second-largest crowd in the history of Freedom Hall.

Entering the game, UC had been one of three unbeaten teams in the country.

"I've never gotten beat like that," said UC coach Bob Huggins. "That's a first for me. Our guys have always competed so hard and played so hard. We've gotten beat, but we've never gotten beat like that. That was embarrassing."

The 27-point loss matched the 90-63 loss at North Carolina in 1993-94 as the most lopsided in Huggins' UC career. It was also the most lopsided loss UC has ever suffered to Louisville, which has now won 14 straight.

Huggins wasn't the only one embarrassed.

"We expect a lot more of ourselves," forward Armein Kirkland said.

Huggins and his coaching staff said they saw this coming. In fact, after practice one day this week, Huggins warned his players about how bad they would feel sitting in the Freedom Hall locker room after a loss if they didn't shape up.

"It's human nature," Huggins said. "Things have been too easy for us. We stole the ball and made layups and everybody clapped and we felt giddy."

Huggins has said all year long that the Bearcats' half-court offensive execution left much to be desired, and that was never more evident than during the second half against Louisville when UC managed only 26 points, easily its lowest output for any half this season, and shot just 28.6 percent from the field.

UC, which has been forcing opponents into an average of 23 turnovers a game, got only 13 from the Cardinals.

Louisville countered UC's pressure by allowing forward Luke Whitehead to bring the ball up the court, forcing Jason Maxiell, who led UC with 14 points and seven rebounds, to come out and guard him.

"We didn't play it," Huggins said, when asked how Louisville was able to solve UC's press so easily. "I called three timeouts to get guys in their right spots and they never got there."

Without their press providing easy transition baskets, the Bearcats' inability to score in the halfcourt was devastating.

"We played excellent defense," said Louisville coach Rick Pitino, "and then we limited them to one shot."

The Bearcats, who hadn't trailed this season, fell behind 44-40 at halftime Wednesday and never recovered.

In a game that was called closely by the officials, UC was whistled for 32 fouls and sent Louisville to the free throw line 42 times. The Cardinals made 29 of them.

UC, meanwhile, made only 12 of 26 from the line and committed 19 turnovers.

Whitehead scored 18 points and led Louisville with eight rebounds.

Taquan Dean led the Cardinals in scoring with 21 points, followed by Francisco Garcia with 19. Louisville made eight of 24 from 3-point range, compared with four of 14 for UC.

As tough as the loss was, White said it would not damage the Bearcats' confidence.

"We still feel like we have one of the best teams in the country," UC forward James White said. "We still feel like we can win the national championship."

E-mail bkoch@enquirer.com

CincinnatiMFGAttFTAttRAFTOTP
White263768533212
Maxiell3061124752214
Johnson22121321313
F.Williams21380020428
N.Williams24140053252
Moore12010001210
Lucas1000000000
Hicks13120030412
Bobbitt22380051528
Kirkland15251443215
Whaley145927304212
Totals200255712263817321966
Team rebounds - 2.

LouisvilleMFGAttFTAttRAFTOTP
Whitehead3459812804118
O'Bannon21491120209
Dartez16242351536
Dean3071423733021
Garcia38513811471019
Diakite4010020010
Jenkins13010014110
Mohammed163334313211
Johnson1000000110
Daniels1000000000
George26275873439
Totals200286129424219241393
Team rebounds - 3.

Cincinnati4026-66
Louisville4449-93

3-pointers - UC 4-14 (White 0-2, F.Williams 2-4, N.Williams 0-2, Bobbitt 2-6), UL 8-24 (Whitehead 0-1, O'Bannon 0-4, Dean 5-10, Garcia 1-6, Jenkins 0-1, Mohammed 2-2). Technicals - Cincinnati (team). Officials - Hightower, Higgins, Thornley. Attendance - 20,079.

 

Past imperfect

The Bearcats' 27-point margin of defeat Wednesday tied for the worst in the Bob Huggins era, which began in 1989-90. The five worst losses:

Season
Opp.
Score
Margin
2003-04
Louisville
93-66
27
1993-94
North Carolina
90-63
27
1991-92
Indiana
81-60
21
1997-98
Xavier
88-68
20
2002-03
Memphis
67-48
19




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