It was time for Mick Cronin and his staff to discover what progress had been made with their 2007-2008 men's basketball squad when they squared off against Northern Kentucky University on Wednesday night. The result was a closer than expected 76-71 Bearcat win.
After the game, Adam Hrycaniuk used the word "embarrassing" to describe the evening while Coach Cronin said the Norse gave the Bearcats exactly what they needed. He also said he wouldn't have minded if the Bearcats had lost the game and asked if anyone remembered the last time that happened to a Bearcat basketball team.
I believe the answer to the Coach's question was the 1991-1992 season when the Bearcats lost their opening exhibition game but ended the season in the Final Four posting a 29-5 record.
The Norse started no player taller than 6' 4" which meant those attempting to guard Adam Hrycaniuk and Anthony McClain did so with their head no higher than the Bearcat big men's shoulders. As you might expect, when the Bearcat centers got the ball, they delivered going a combined 11 for 15 from the floor.
NKU had an excellent night from 3 point range hitting 16 of 27 attempts (59%). Finneytown's Mark Hawkins was 7 for 10 from behind the arc in scoring all 21 of his points and leading Northern Kentucky in scoring. The Norse shot 51% from the floor for the game but were outrebounded 34-20.
Two of the Bearcat freshmen teamed up to provide Cincinnati with some excellent back-to-back plays. Anthony McClain unveiled his sky hook, and it looked good when he hit a bucket with it in the first half, but later he showed his range. With the Bearcats behind by a point almost midway through the second half, McClain hit a jumper close to the top of the key to give UC a one point lead. After a Norse bucket, Rashad Bishop drove to the hoop to hit a shot and again put the Bearcats in the lead with about twelve minutes left in the game.
The same two frosh teamed up again with less than six minutes left in the contest. McClain's dunk gave the Bearcats a 60-56 lead, and Bishop's three pointer on the next possession stretched the Cincinnati lead to 63-56. McClain finished the game with 10 points and 5 rebounds while Bishop had 10 points and 4 boards.
Deonta Vaughn led the Bearcats in scoring with 17 points and hit his final six foul shots to ice the game for UC. Adam Hrycaniuk was 6 for 6 from the floor but only 3 of 6 from the line for a 15 point effort. John Williamson led the Bearcats with 9 rebounds.
As a team, Cincinnati shot poorly from long range and from the charity stripe hitting only 3 of 14 three pointers (21%) and 15 of 27 foul shots (56%). But overall, the Bearcats were 29 for 53 from the floor for a solid 55% effort.
Darnell Wilks did not play in the game but sat on the Bearcat bench in a UC sweat suit as he continues to wait to hear if/when the NCAA rules on his eligibility. The home crowd was very sparse as expected for an exhibition game on Halloween night.
The Bearcats will play the final exhibition game Saturday night at 7:30 against Bellarmine.
Cincinnati/NKU Post Game Report
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