Bearcat Insider spoke with John Williamson prior to Monday's practice. Wednesday's game with undefeated Memphis will be Cincinnati's first since the emotional Xavier contest.
The Crosstown Shootout is always an emotional game, and the benefactors are often those teams that play Cincinnati and Xavier after that emotional night. Xavier lost its national ranking in the Associated Press poll after suffering a lopsided loss to unranked Arizona State last weekend. The Bearcats' task will be even tougher as they host the #2 ranked Memphis Tigers at Fifth Third Arena on Wednesday night.
If the Bearcats are to pull the upset of the year against Memphis, last season's team MVP, John Williamson, will probably need to have a great game, but it certainly won't be easy. The 6' 6" Williamson, who once again leads the Bearcats in rebounding with 7.6 a game, will go against a much bigger Tigers' line-up that features five players 6' 8" or taller, and the Columbus product sounded anything but thrilled about his play against Xavier. "I think I did okay. I did a few things better, but overall, I did okay." John may have been tough on himself with that assessment since he almost had a double/double with nine points and nine rebounds against the Musketeers.
Coach Cronin made it clear in the last couple weeks that the squad needed a better effort from Williamson for Cincinnati to have success this season. John feels he's trying to live up to the expectations. "I try to come out in every game and bring energy. I try to do more to be better. I want to have more than 100% effort. I want to come out with 110% to 150% every game."
Even though Cincinnati lost to the Musketeers last week, John feels the team played well in a tough environment. "It gives us confidence. I think we're all coming together and knowing each other's roles. We're starting to learn how hard we can play to get something positive out of it."
Memphis has guards as tall or taller than Williamson, but John says the Tiger team height isn't a concern if the Bearcats execute. "They have big guards, but if we box out and play as hard as we usually do, I think we'll be okay." Memphis guards Chris Douglas-Roberts (6' 7"), Derrick Rose (6' 3") and Antonio Anderson (6' 6") combine to average almost 15 rebounds a game and forty points.
Williamson remembers last season's 88-55 loss. "They like to get up and down the floor. They have a lot of depth, but I think our depth matches up extremely well with theirs. We just have to keep them from running up and down, and we need to pick up the pace as we've been doing for the past few games."
After the recent loss to Xavier, Coach Cronin second guessed himself to a degree when he said he maybe shouldn't have rested Williamson for three minutes in the second half, but John played 33 minutes, eight minutes more than his average this season. John responded with nothing but confidence in his coach's decisions. "He (Coach Cronin) did a good job coaching. We just couldn't close the game out."
One of the weaknesses in John's game last year was his 58% foul shooting, and despite some off season work, Williamson's struggles have continued this year by hitting only 19 of 40 charity tosses for a 48% average. John said he's continuing to work on his free throw accuracy. "A lot of it is confidence. Every day after practice I'm working on my free throws. I shoot at least three hundred every day, and before I leave, I have to make ten in a row."
After the Memphis game, the nonconference schedule gets only slightly easier as the Bearcats go on the road to North Carolina State before playing Miami of Ohio at U. S. Bank Arena. John is hoping the tough schedule will help prepare UC for the rigors of BIG EAST basketball beginning with Louisville on New Year's Day. "Those are two more good games that can get us some momentum. Those are two good teams. If we continue coming together like we're doing now, I think we'll be ready for the BIG EAST."
The Cincinnati/Memphis game at Fifth Third Arena will be televised Wednesday night at 7 o'clock on ESPN2, but there are also still plenty of tickets available.