Bearcats To Battle Fairfield

Saturday afternoon the Bearcats get back to action against the Fairfield Stags. Tip off is 1:00 pm at Fifth Third Arena. The Stags play in the Metro Atlantic Conference, the MAAC seems to pull off major upsets every year in the NCAA tournament. This year they got started early, last weekend Sienna knocked off #20 Stanford.

The Stags are coached by Ed Cooley who is entering his second year at Fairfield. His first team posted a 13 – 19 overall record but did include a seven game win streak. Prior to taking the head job at Fairfield, Cooley was an assistant coach for the past nine years at Boston College.

This year the Stags are off to a 2 – 2 start, including a 25 point loss on the road to Wake Forest and a home loss to Holy Cross. In their latest two games the Stags have pulled out come from behind wins over American and Sacred Heart. American held a nine point lead at the half only to see the Stags complete a strong second half surge to win by eight. The half time deficit against Sacred Heart was 14 before the Stags stormed back to tie the game with 4:31 left and go on to win by nine.

Fairfield's top players are led by junior point guard Jonathan Han who shoots 54% from the field, 44% behind the arc while dishing out six assists per game. In his last game against Sacred Heart, Han scored a team high 22 points to go along with 8 assists. From the free throw line Han made nine shots in ten attempts and is shooting 83% for the season from the charity stripe.

On the baseline the top two Stags are forward Greg Nero (6-7 sophomore) and center Anthony Johnson (6-8 sophomore). Nero averages 10 points per game to go along with 4.5 rebounds, Nero's season high points is 21. Johnson chips in with 9.5 per game and 6.3 rebounds, Johnson has a season high 14 points against American.

Fairfield has a potentially dangerous weapon coming off the bench in 6-9 forward Mike Evanovich. Against Wake Forest, Evanovich went 5 of 5 from three point range to lead the Stags with 20 points.

The Bearcats are also 2 – 2 to start the season. After beginning the 2007 campaign by playing four games in eight days the young Bearcats had a full week to regroup and prepare for Fairfield. The Bearcats begin a critical stretch of eight games where they must show improvement prior to BIG EAST play beginning on January 1.

The biggest problem that UC has had thus far is on defense, giving up 69.5 points per game against an arguably light schedule. With six freshmen playing along with Adam Hrycaniuk still adjusting to major college basketball struggles on defense is not a surprise, what needs to be a constant from this point on is the effort which has lagged at times. Patience is the most difficult thing to have while watching a young team develop, but that is exactly what is needed with this group. What won't be tolerated by fans is a perceived lack of constant effort.

To help on defense Anthony McClain should be available after sitting out the Coastal Carolina game with an injury.

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