The Cincinnati Bearcats had hoped to extend their string of 42 straight victories in home openers when they won the tip against Belmont University in Friday's second game of the Peggy Cronin Classic, but the streak was broken as the Bruins overcame a four point halftime deficit to defeat Cincinnati by an 86-75 final score.
The Bearcats were outplayed for most of the first half before Marcus Sikes hit a three and later rebounded a missed Marvin Gentry foul shot that he passed to Deonta Vaughn, who stroked a three pointer himself giving the Bearcats a 41-39 lead with less than a minute remaining in the half. Vaughn, moments later, got a steal and converted it into a bucket stretching the Bearcat lead to 43-39 as the two clubs went into their locker rooms.
Vaughn was the only Bearcat to score in double figures as he had ten points in the half, but Adam Hrycaniuk and Larry Davis also played well in their starting roles by chipping in with eight and six points respectively.
The four point Bearcat advantage at the half did not last long as the Bruins came out with some hot shooting in the second half. To make matters worse, Marvin Gentry picked up his fourth foul less than two minutes into the half. After the game, Coach Cronin identified the Gentry foul as the biggest play of the game. With Jamual Warren already unavailable due to a hand injury, it gave UC very few options at the guard position. Deonta Vaughn was forced to play 37 minutes in the game.
Even though Belmont maintained a comfortable lead for most of the second half, the Bruins did provide the Bearcats a chance to get back into the contest when they went scoreless for three minutes starting at the 6:19 mark, but the Bearcats were also unable to score.
Bearcat fans started leaving Fifth Third Arena after Belmont opened an 81-69 lead with 3:19 to go in the game. With less than two minutes remaining, the Bruin fans began chanting, "Let's go Belmont." Both major scoreboards malfunctioned as if they too knew the game was over.
Despite the loss to a good Belmont club, there was some good play by Cincinnati. Freshman Larry Davis ended up with 11 points in 20 minutes of action, and John Williamson had a double/double by scoring 10 points and collecting 13 rebounds. Deonta Vaughn led all Cincinnati scorers with 19 points while Adam Hrycaniuk added 15 points and 7 rebounds.
But in the end, the Bearcats were outplayed in almost every facet of the game. Belmont shot 51.6% from the floor and 40% from behind the arc. The Bearcats shot 43.5% from the field and 32% from the three point line. The taller Bearcats did easily outrebound the Bruins by a 41-33 margin but also turned the ball over 6 more times (19-13). Belmont hit 12 three pointers on the night.
Coach Cronin chose to play the tougher Bruins first in the tourney because it gave the Bearcats more time to prepare against their best opponent. Cincinnati will play Western Carolina tomorrow (Saturday) at 7 o'clock. The Catamounts beat Bowling Green by a 63-60 score earlier in the evening. Nick Aldridge, who had at one point verbally committed to play for UC, led Western Carolina with 17 points. Western Carolina is another club that likes to shoot the three point shot.
Darnell Wilks and Kenny Belton did not play for the Bearcats. Coach Cronin said the reasons had to do with a lack of practice time and bad match-ups against the smaller Bruins. Belton has missed some practices due to a concussion, and Wilks was only recently cleared to play by the NCAA.
Sidenote: Wayne Chapman, who coached Kentucky Wesleyan to a couple of national basketball titles, now works as an NBA scout for the Denver Nuggets and watched Friday's games. Wayne's boss is his son Rex Chapman, who played for Kentucky and spent a dozen seasons in the pros. Now Rex is the Nuggets' general manager. Wayne said to remember the name of Zeke Chapman. Zeke is a freshman, and Wayne thinks his grandson has as nice a lefthander jumper that he's ever seen.
Bearcats Drop Opener to Belmont
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