After hearing it from their coach after Wednesday night's uninspired showing against St. John's, the University of Cincinnati women's basketball team responded with a dominating effort against lowly Syracuse, winning 59-43.
Cincinnati (12-5, 2-4) saw a pair of solid rebound games from Anne Stephens and Treasure Humphries help carry them to their second-even Big East victory over Syracuse (7-11, 0-7). The duo helped pace a Bearcat attack that thrived particularly on the defensive end.
Though UC struggled offensively, shooting 37-percent for the game (3-of-13 from behind the arc), they were able to make their numbers seem adequate compared to that of the Orange. Behind a collective team effort and a strong zoning attack, the Bearcats were able to hold Viada Sipavicaiute her Syracuse teammates to a 27-percent night from the floor and force 20 turnovers. The aggressive zone that UC employed on this evening, the same zone that allowed 50 points to St. Johns on the inside, help the lanky Sipaviciute to just two points, 16 below her season average.
"We have a young team, and we talk a lot about when we focus on one end of the floor the other end tends to go down.," said Pirtle. "We focused a lot on defense for this game."
Part of the reason for UC's success was their ability to dominate the glass, particularly the defensive variety. Despite numerous opportunities for their opponents, UC controlled the boards, 45 to 36.
The major reason for UC's success was the play of Stephens, who has also slumped over the past two games after dominating the interior over her previous six games. Stephens, the Bearcats 6-4 senior center that was expected to lead the young ‘Cats team on and off the court, lived up to her preseason billing in today's contest, finishing the game with career-highs in rebounds (13) and blocked shots (5).
While Stephens' had great success in the defensive paint, the veteran only finished with nine points for the game, so UC needed the services of slumping combo guard Humphries to pick up her play.
Humphries, who has struggled with foul trouble and limited productions in her last two outings, led UC with 12 points and added four steals. When Humphries is on the floor and producing, it gives the ‘Cats, along with Shelly Bellman, a consistent scoring threat on the perimeter that is able to create her own shot and penetrate the paint. With the knee injury to Micah Harvey, the explosiveness of Humphries on both ends of the court is a much-needed asset for Cincinnati.
The Bearcats are next in action at home when they host Georgetown on Wednesday, Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. in Fifth Third Arena