Sunday, March 21, 2004

Huggins doesn't use Tourney failures to motivate his team

UC notebook

By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COLUMBUS - A win today could help the University of Cincinnati basketball program shake its reputation as a program that can't get past the first weekend of the Tournament.

But UC coach Bob Huggins says he doesn't use his team's recent Tournament failures as motivation.

"We don't talk about it," Huggins said. "We talk about how it's a two-game tournament. You want to win two games so you can play another week, but other than that, no."

UC last went to the Sweet 16 in 2001, when it beat Kent State in the second round in San Diego before losing in the West Region semifinals to Stanford in Anaheim.

The Bearcats have failed to survive the Tournament's first weekend in six of the last seven years.

By contrast, Illinois coach Bruce Weber talks frequently about his team's loss to Notre Dame in the second round last year, even though he wasn't the Illini's head coach at the time.

"It's a big step," Weber said. "Last year our guys won one and lost the second game, so we've used that as a motivator."

Illinois has played in the Sweet 16 in two of the last three years.

STAYING PUT: Huggins has been at UC for 15 years, but there's still a perception among some writers that he has been waiting for the right job to come along so he can move on.

Asked Saturday if he would have considered leaving UC if the school were not heading for the Big East Conference in 2005, Huggins said: "I have stayed at Cincinnati because I like it there. I've had plenty of opportunities to do otherwise. I don't have any plans to coach anywhere other than at Cincinnati."

PURSUING BROWN: Imagine this UC team with Illinois point guard Dee Brown at the helm of the Bearcats' offense.

Huggins did.

"Coach Huggins was the first coach to come to my high school and talk to me," said Brown, who is from Maywood, Ill. "I was recruited by Cincinnati pretty hard.

"Once Illinois started recruiting me, that's where I was going to go. (Cincinnati) was kind of far away from home. I wanted to stay closer to home. I'm happy at Illinois and I knew from the get-go I was going to Illinois."

DIFFERENT STYLES: Brown said that Illinois plays a different style of basketball than UC.

"We outplay people," he said. "We outsmart people. They are an intimidating team, but I know a lot of people on our team don't fear no one. We played a lot of great teams this year and if they think they're going to punk us or intimidate us, that's not going to happen."

NOTES: UC is 1-1 vs. Illinois. The two schools have not met since 1984, when the Illini won, 87-65. The Bearcats' win was a 62-53 decision in 1963. ... UC and Illinois have one common opponent this year. Illinois beat Memphis, 74-64, Dec. 13 at Assembly Hall in Champaign, Ill. UC beat Memphis, 83-79, March 6 at Fifth Third Arena. ... UC last played a Big Ten team on Dec. 22, 2001, when the Bearcats defeated Purdue, 79-62, in the championship game of the Las Vegas Classic. ... UC is 9-6 against NCAA Tournament teams.---


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