The weekend ended as it began for the Cincinnati Bearcat men's basketball team as Bowling Green became the unofficial champions of the inaugural Peggy Cronin Classic with wins over Belmont and Cincinnati after an opening loss to Western Carolina. The Classic did not crown an official champion in the round robin event, but both Belmont and Bowling Green ended the weekend with 2-1 records, and the Falcons owned a victory over the Bruins on Saturday afternoon.
Bearcat head coach, Mick Cronin, was obviously frustrated and disappointed with his team's performance over the weekend and began his press conference Sunday night with brutal honesty. "We're not any good. The reason weren't not any good is we're a bad defensive team."
Coach Cronin referred to the shooting percentages of both opponents that defeated the Bearcats this weekend. Belmont shot 52% from the floor and 40% from behind the arc while Bowling Green shot 46% from the floor and 39% from long range. To make matters worse, the Bearcats forced the Falcons into making only 6 turnovers for the game. Cincinnati turned the ball over 12 times.
The porous Bearcat defense was not the only problem for UC. Cincinnati again shot the ball poorly from the outside hitting only 37% of its shots and only 28% from behind the arc.
The Mid-American Conference Falcons, that have been picked to finish last in the league's Eastern Division, led the Bearcats for almost the entire second half. The only lead for the Bearcats came after a Rashad Bishop field goal with 14:31 remaining in the game to give UC a short lived one point lead at 41-40. This was the first Cincinnati loss to Bowling Green in eight games.
The main catalyst for the Falcons was a 2005 Withrow High School graduate, Chris Knight. Knight said the Bearcats did recruit him but backed away because of his poor grades. The 6' 7" forward attended The Patterson School in North Carolina to improve those grades in 2006 before attending Bowling Green last year, but Knight still needed to redshirt for the 2006-2007 season in order to become academically eligible this year.
The B. G. freshman, who will turn 21-years-old on January 9th, led the Falcons in scoring (24) and rebounding (8) but got help down the stretch from Nate Miller's 8 points in the second half and 10 for the game as well as Ryne Hamblet's 7 points including four clutch foul shots at the end to ice the contest. Hamblet had a total of 11 points for the evening. Joe Jakubowski also added 10 points for the winners.
The Bearcats were led by Deonta Vaughn, who hit five 3 pointers in the second half and had 17 points on the night. John Williamson chipped in with 14 points while freshman Rashad Bishop had 12 points and led Cincinnati in rebounding with 8. Adam Hrycaniuk rounded out the double digit scoring with 11 points but managed to pull down only 4 rebounds.
Anthony "Biggie" McClain was a bright spot by getting 8 points and 7 rebounds in only 10 minutes on the floor. Twice during the game, Coach Cronin had three freshmen on the floor together. The Cincinnati newcomers scored 19 of the Bearcat 25 first half points to help keep UC in the game.
The last time Cincinnati lost two of its first three contests was back in the 1985-1986 season. A Tony Yates coached Bearcat club beat USF before dropping successive games to Western Kentucky and Kentucky. That Bearcat team finished the season with a 12-16 record.
In other action earlier in the evening, Belmont stopped Western Carolina by a 79-70 final score. Once again, Nick Aldridge led Western Carolina with 20 points. Justin Hare and Andy Wicke, who had 23 and 19 points respectively against UC, picked up 13 and 15 against Western Carolina, but leading the Bruins was their 6' 8" forward, Matthew Dotson, with 17 points.
Scouts for the Indiana Pacers, Golden State Warriors and Dallas Mavericks attended the game, but only the Pacer scout stayed for the second half action.
Falcons Soar Past Bearcats
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