Bearcats prepare for Tigers
No. 2 Memphis visits Fifth Third
By Josh Katzowitz, Cincinnati Post staff reporter
The coaches have watched tape of last year's game, and if you get past the ugliness of the final score and the percentage at which Memphis shot the ball, Mick Cronin can see a big difference in last season's University of Cincinnati team and this year's version.
"I look back and tried to look at it and see what may have caused the onslaught to be as bad as it was," Cronin said after digesting film of last year's 88-55 disaster against the Tigers. "Obviously, it was a game we were outmanned, and we weren't going to win."
So, what makes tonight's game vs. No. 2 Memphis at Fifth Third Arena any different? Although Jeremy Hunt, who scored a game-high 24 points last year, isn't around, the Tigers (8-0) employ two potential NBA players in junior guard Chris Douglas-Roberts and freshman guard Derrick Rose and feature eight players who score at least 7.0 points per game.
Cronin talks about how his team was outmanned last year. Frankly, though, this year doesn't look much better. Cronin disagrees.
"When you're playing Marcus Sikes at center against an Elite 8 team and your first post-sub is a football player (in Connor Barwin), there's not much you can do," Cronin said. "Our added size and athleticism allows us to get better defensively. And we are starting to get better defensively."
The Bearcats (4-5) showed it last week against Xavier University in the Crosstown Shootout.
Since the season-opener against Belmont, when UC allowed the Bruins to shoot 51.6 percent from the field, the Bearcats defense has improved. Against the Musketeers, UC forced XU into shooting 38.6 percent from the floor (23.1 percent from the 3-point line), and the Bearcats have lowered their field-goal defense to 42.4 percent.
They'll need that defensive intensity tonight against Douglas-Roberts (18.3 points per game) and Rose (14.4). Memories of last year's game when Memphis seemingly made shots at will - actually, en route to a 39-12 lead 12 minutes into the game, the Tigers shot 59.3 percent for the game - add to UC's desire to lock down its opponent.
"They made almost every shot they shot," said Williamson, whose highlight in last year's game occurred when his missed dunk hit the rim and shot up 25 feet in the air. "It wasn't in our favor at all. When another team makes every shot, you're there and it's like, 'Man, can we get a break?' It's a different story this year."
Perhaps he's right in regards to the frontcourt matchup this season. Instead of starting Sikes, who's moved into a reserve swingman role this year, UC uses 6-foot-10 Adam Hrycaniuk and 6-11 Anthony McClain.
Yes, Cronin worries about Douglas-Roberts and Rose, but he's also concerned with 6-9 senior forward Joey Dorsey. While Dorsey's point production of 7.7 per game isn't overwhelming, he rebounds at a 9.7-per-contest clip and he understands his role in coach John Calipari's offense.
He also worries the Bearcats coach.
"You've got two no-doubt NBA players in Derrick Rose and Douglas-Roberts," Cronin said. "Then you've got a 24-year-old center in Joey Dorsey who has totally bought into the fact they don't throw him the ball in their offense other than lob passes for dunks. He just wanders the baseline and waits for you to help (double-team a teammate). He finishes plays around the rim. He's totally bought into that role, and he's a tremendous enforcer on the defensive end and on the glass. They have a lot of components."
UC, though, still believes it can win this game. To be fair, the Bearcats are coming off their best performance of the season, leading then-No. 17 XU with less than 4 minutes to play.
They hope the momentum earned by playing a tough road game against a top-25 team will help them stifle the Tigers. Even if the Bearcats have to be reminded of last year's game.
"We've got everything they've got this year," sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn said. "We've got the quickness they got. Everybody can shoot the ball on our team. We can play together just as well as they do."