The Cincinnati Bearcats defeated the UAB Blazers by a final score of 87-80 in front of a sparse crowd at The Shoemaker Center on Saturday afternoon, improving their record to 6-1. A balanced offensive attack coupled with sound defense will often earn you a win, and, outside of maybe the final 3 minutes, the Bearcats got both.
The two leaders of the team, Deonta Vaughn and Mike Williams, lead the way for the Bearcats. Williams scored 17, and Vaughn added 16 more in the win. But the real story was the incredible balance the team showed. Not only did the Bearcats have 3 in double figures, they also had 4 others on the cusp of reaching double figures as well (two with 9 points, two with 8).
Freshman Yancy Gates was one of the three players who were able to reach double figures, and the talented big man says having a team that can contribute as evenly as they did tonight makes you very dangerous.
"It makes us very dangerous because if one player is having a down night we know we have someone else who can step up," said Gates.
As a team, the Bearcats were able to hold the potent UAB offense without a 3 pointer in the first half, but Mike Williams says it was their ability to take care of the ball early on that impressed him the most.
"I think it was real good defense," said Williams. "But I think it helped us a lot that we had only 4 turnovers in the first half. I'm glad we cut down on that more than anything."
Williams, perhaps the team's best foul shooter, was the one Coach Mick Cronin looked to in the end when the Bearcats needed to cash in from the charity stripe. Williams says that is a role he is more than willing to take on.
"No questions asked," said Williams. "It goes back to being a good free throw shooter as well. We knew they were going to start fouling and coach wanted to get the ball into my hands so even if I don't make a shot I can make the free throws."
Coach Cronin was pleased with his team's effort, but would have like to finish the game on more of a positive note and also eliminate sloppy play.
"That was a great win for our team," said Cronin. "The last 3 or 4 minutes kind of got out of control about fouling. They were trying to extend the game. We were up 17 with 4:45 to play. I thought we were a little sloppy with the ball at times, and we need to correct that. But for the bulk of the game we were able to keep them off the foul line and keeping them out of the bonus. We did a pretty good job on Robert Vaden who is a great shooter."
Despite the win, Williams and the 'Cats know they still have a lot improve on before they get to where they need to be. "We still have things to work on, so we are just taking it a day at a time to get better and better and improve in all areas," said Williams.
• Records: Cincinnati – 5-2, 0-0 BIG EAST; UAB – 5-3, 0-0 C-USA
• The Bearcats defeat UAB 87-80; UC leads the all-time series 15-8.
• The win snaps a two-game losing streak vs. UAB and is Mick Cronin's first against the Blazers.
• Down 13-11 with 12:09 in the first half, UC went on an 11-0 run to take a 22-13 lead at 9:47. Junior guard Deonta Vaughn scored five of the 11 points on a jumper and a 3-pointer.
• The Bearcats extended its first half lead to as many as 14 point, but led by 12, 38-26, at halftime.
• For the fourth time this season, every UC player pulled down at least one rebound.
• The Bearcats held UAB 0-for-9 from 3-point line until it hit its first trey at 15:52 of the second half. UAB finished the game 6-for-25 (.240).
• The Blazers are the first team in 2008-09 to shoot 40 percent vs. Cincinnati, connecting on 30-of-75 shots (.400).
• The Bearcats shot a season-high 75.7 percent (28-of-37) from the free throw line. Senior forward Mike Williams led the way hitting 11-of-14 (.785), including 5-for-6 in the final two minutes of the game.
• For the fifth time this season and the second game in a row, UC pulled down 40 or more rebounds with 42 vs. UAB. All 10 Bearcats who played pulled down at least one rebound, led by Rashad Bishop who equaled his career high. It is the fourth time this season, every UC player pulled down at least one rebound.
• Cincinnati's 87 points are the most the team has scored since posting 96 (96-83) vs. West Virginia in an overtime win at home on Jan. 20, 2007. The West Virginia game is also the last time UC allowed 70 or more points in a victory.
• UC hit on 26-of-52 (.500) shot in the game, marking the third time this season UC has shot 50.0 percent or better in a game. Before this season, the Bearcats had shot 50 percent or better in a game only twice under Mick Cronin, both in 2006-07.
• Senior forward Mike Williams was the Bearcats leading scorer with a career-high 17 points. Williams netted 11 of his 17 points from the free throw line. He was 3-for-5 from the field.
• Junior guard Deonta Vaughn came off the bench and scored 16 points and equaled his season high with five rebounds.
• Sophomore forward Darnell Wilks, who had scored just three points his last four games, came out against UAB and his first two shots, knocking down a 3-pointer and a jumper for five points. Wilks finished the game 3-for-5 from the field and 2-for-4 from behind the arc for a career-high eight points. He also added a career-high two assists.
• Sophomore guard Rashad Bishop had one of his best games as a UC basketball player, scoring a season high nine points and equaling his career bests with eight rebounds and two blocked shots.
• Freshman forward Yancy Gates connected on his first career 3-point attempt with 6:30 left in the game to put Cincinnati up, 64-52. Gates, who equaled his season high with 22 minutes, ended with 11 points.