By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer
LOUISVILLE - Determined to prove wrong critics who have questioned their schedule, the University of Cincinnati Bearcats instead provided them with more ammunition.
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)
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
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.
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."
Team rebounds - 2.
Team rebounds - 3.
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.
The Bearcats' 27-point margin of defeat Wednesday tied for the worst in the
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