Bearcats close again
But moral victories becoming tiresome
By Josh Katzowitz
Post staff reporter
Once again, the University of Cincinnati made a top-25 team sweat in the final minutes of the game. Once again, the Bearcats fell short and took another defeat. Again, they showed improvement.
But don't expect senior center Adam Hrycaniuk or senior swingman Marcus Sikes to break into a celebration.
A close loss - this one a 79-69 defeat to No. 2 Memphis on Wednesday at Fifth Third Arena - doesn't make them feel any better about the state of their team.
"I think we're getting better," said Hrycaniuk, who scored 13 points and recorded five rebounds, three assists and three turnovers. "But we still didn't execute our offense today as well as we're supposed to do. We didn't do a good job on the glass. We missed a lot of layups. That's what let us down."
Following a disturbing theme this season, Hrycaniuk missed two layups, and senior forward John Williamson clanged a dunk with 3:03 to play that would have cut the Tigers (9-0) lead to five.
But, perhaps surprisingly, UC (4-6) out-rebounded a more-talented Memphis team 33-32, and with 2 minutes left to play, this was still a two-possession game.
Doesn't matter to Sikes that the Bearcats led at Xavier University late in the game last week before losing, and it doesn't matter that they had a legitimate chance to beat the second-best team in the country Wednesday.
A loss, to him, is still a loss.
"I can honestly say we're getting better," said Sikes, who was 2-for-20 from the 3-point line this season before making one midway through the first half en route to scoring five points. "It's just the little things. Rebounding, boxing out and defending. The most important rebounds at crunch time, giving them second-chance opportunities, that really hurt us."
Good, UC coach Mick Cronin said. That's how he wants his players to feel.
"That's the attitude we need to have," Cronin said. "One thing you learn at this level is that nobody feels sorry for you. We're playing a ridiculously tough schedule. A lot of our brethren in the Big East are in the cozy confines of their home gym playing unranked teams. We're not. But it's irrelevant. You have to play the cards you're dealt."
So, UC continued to improve with senior Jamual Warren running the team at point guard, and sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn impressed his coach with his aggressiveness, scoring a team-high 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting.
Hrycaniuk continued to miss layups, and the Bearcats defense showed that it's just a little better.
UC has lost four straight.
But they're getting closer to victories, even if this opportunity was smashed by Memphis freshman guard Derrick Rose, who hit five 3-pointers and scored a career-high 26 points.
"You have to give him all the credit in the world," Cronin said. "When he shoots the ball like that, he's a devastating player to deal with. He hurt us in every way possible tonight. You can see why so many people talk about him as such a great player."
Although Warren's long jumper with 1 second left on the clock in the first half cut the Memphis lead to one heading to intermission, the Tigers took a 15-point advantage with 6:50 to play on an Andre Allen 3-pointer.
But after a Vaughn jumper with 2:22 left cut the Memphis lead to 68-62, the Bearcats were poised to make the Tigers nervous. They just didn't have enough to complete the comeback.
Afterward, nobody was happy about it.
"I don't want those guys to feel like that we should be happy that we're improving and that we're playing with more intensity," Cronin said. "You need to be happy when you win."
NOTEWORTHY - Marvin Gentry, who was badly injured when his head collided with Vaughn's knee in the Crosstown Shootout and had to be wheeled off the floor on a stretcher, didn't play Wednesday.
Cronin said Gentry didn't practice this week, and although he was cleared to play late Wednesday afternoon, Cronin didn't feel right about it.
"He hadn't practiced since he had the concussion," Cronin said. "I wasn't comfortable putting him out there."