Bearcats Take Last Step Before Big East

Eric Hicks looked forward to playing against the college many of his former friends and teammates attend. Not only did he have a big game, he had a career game against North Carolina A&T.

The stage was set for University of Cincinnati senior forward Eric Hicks to enjoy one of his best games during his Bearcat career. "He earned it!" Said Bearcats Head Coach Andy Kennedy, "He's been a warrior for me and this program during his career." in explaining his comments about wanting Hicks to reach career high numbers against Hick's hometown team.

How good of a game did Hicks enjoy? By scoring 24 points (22 career best), 11 FG (10 career best) he set new marks, but he also posted some other impressive numbers by pulling down 10 rebounds and blocking 7 shots. One block ended up drawing Hicks a technical foul after a little friendly trash talking with former high school teammate Michael Hayes.

With many friends, family members and even both players former high school coach in the stands, both players looked to battle. Hick won the battle and enjoyed himself during the process.

"I was looking forward to this game. I have a lot of friends that play for them (North Carolina A&T). I had a boatload of family members that came up. It was just great to have a good performance against them."

But while Hicks was at his best, the Bearcats also found very good performances from Cedric McGowan, Devan Downey, Armein Kirkland and James White. Each player hit for double figures with White being only one point behind Hicks with 23 points.

While Downey enjoyed his scoring performance (13 pts.) it was his holiday spirit of giving that he enjoyed even more. On the night Downey would dish out 11 assists to his fellow teammates. The freshman who's seen much press in the past few weeks knows tonight's performance was just a tune-up to what is headed the Bearcats way next week. When asked about DePaul and the upcoming Big East slate of games, Downey was quick to point out his readiness for the battles that lie ahead.

Not only has Devan Downey shown his offensive style, he's also learned it's defense that will take his game to another level.

"I'm ready. I think I need a little more rest and a tune-up because the competition (in the BIG EAST) is going to be out of this world. I think I am ready and the team is ready."

"I was saying in my mind `I can score the basketball.' There were a couple times I could have taken it (to the basket), but instead I tried to hit my open teammates to try to open up another part of my game that we're going to need to be successful in the BIG EAST."

But while both players expressed their enjoyment for the team's performance, Head Coach Andy Kennedy wasn't as kind.

"We survived it. I'm not very fond of those (games). I'm fond of the result. It's hard. I thought our guys had their moments, but our intensity was not sustained at a very high level. But that is a little bit to be expected. I thought they (North Carolina A&T) competed very hard and he's (head coach Jerry Eaves) doing a great job and hopefully it will turn around for them."

"I think the anticipation of the BIG EAST is directly upon us and I, for one, am excited about it. I know our kids will be excited about it. I didn't even want to talk about the relevance of being in the BIG EAST prior to us taking care of our non-league. I certainly think we've done some things to improve. I think that we've put ourselves in a position to compete in the BIG EAST."

With DePaul up next, the Bearcats will take the next two days off and enjoy the new year. But after shooting 55% on the night, tougher nights lie ahead as two former C-USA foes that also joined the Big East are up next.

While students are not back on campus, a crowd of over 8,500 watched the Bearcats score 105 points as they emptied the bench. In fact, at one point Coach Kennedy called out for Abdul Herrera with a very big smile on his face. The freshman, who saw his chances of playing this season end last week, looked surprised and unsure of what his head coach expected from him.

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