UC ready for Memphis now
BY BILL KOCH, Cincinnati Enquirer
Things got so out of hand last season when the University of Cincinnati basketball team played Memphis that ESPN2 broke away to show another game.
The Bearcats, 4-5 and losers of three straight games - all on the road - hope to make a better showing tonight against the No. 2 Tigers.
Last year's game at Memphis was one of the low points of the season for UC. The Tigers took an 11-0 lead on the way to an 88-55 victory.
"When we played Cincinnati, we started hitting our stride," Memphis coach John Calipari said.
"That was when we went on a 25-game win streak. Cincy caught us at a bad time for them, a good time for us. We started realizing we were better than we thought."
UC coach Mick Cronin might have been tempted not to revisit that game as he prepared for tonight's matchup, but he has watched the tape to try to figure out just why things got so far out of hand so quickly for the Bearcats.
"Obviously we were outmanned," Cronin said. "We weren't going to win. But our offensive impatience and shot selection left a lot to be desired. Our execution was poor. It was like throwing gasoline on the fire.
"They shot the ball really well early and we tried to go down and match them. We didn't show any composure in that game on the offensive end."
The UC players say they learned their lesson.
"We thought the answer was to come down and shoot," said senior guard Marvin Gentry. "But playing on the road against a good team like that, you've got to make them defend."
That's the plan for UC tonight: Don't panic. Don't get caught up in trying to run and shoot with Memphis. Stay patient and disciplined and run the offense, much as the Bearcats did last week in their 64-59 loss at Xavier.
Of course, other teams have implemented that plan this season against the Tigers (8-0) without much success.
"They'll hold the ball on offense and try to shoot the ball as the shot clock winds down," Calipari said. "Supposedly that's the blueprint on how to play us."
Memphis, with its depth, athleticism and defensive intensity, might be the most complete team in the country.
The Tigers certainly aren't a one-man team, but they have one player who's among the best in the country in 6-foot-7 junior guard Chris Douglas-Roberts, who averages 18.3 points per game.
"He's a guy that we start our offense through," Calipari said. "He can score the ball and he's a good passer. He's got the Earl Monroe game. He's got the runner, the floater, the left hand, the right hand. Now, that makes it kind of hard. How do you guard him? If you double-team him, he's making everybody else better."
UC most recently played a No. 2-ranked team Feb. 23, 2006, losing at home to Villanova by two points. The Bearcats are 1-11 all time against No. 2 teams.
Though a win tonight seems unlikely, Cronin believes his team is better equipped than last year to deal with Memphis.
"When you're playing (6-8) Marcus Sikes at center against Elite Eight teams, and when your first post sub is a football player, there's not much you can do," Cronin said. "That's not the case this year. Our added size and athleticism is allowing us to get better defensively."
Will UC be good enough to keep ESPN2 interested for the entire game? Stay tuned.