Bearcats Sports XChange Report

The Sports XChange takes a look at Cincinnati Hoops.

GETTING INSIDE

Cincinnati is putting an end to the Deonta Vaughn era of basketball in the NIT. The Bearcats might just be beginning what they have to hope is the Lance Stephenson era.

Vaughn's era had a disappointing end to it. He came in as a scorer and looked as if by the time he reached his senior season he would be one of the Big East's most dominant players. Instead, he went from a high of 15.3 points a game as a junior to 11.1 as a senior.

Now he will try to go out a winner with a run in the NIT. He got off to a good start in the tournament by scoring 16 points Wednesday to lead the Bearcats to a 76-62 victory over Weber State in their first-round game. Cincinnati will play at home against Dayton in the second round Monday.

While Vaughn struggled late in his career, Stephenson went through more of an adjustment period than expected as he came in as the most heralded freshman in this year's class.

But late in the season he took over the Bearcats. He averaged 15.9 points and 7.6 rebounds over the final seven games through the Big East tournament. He had 14 points Wednesday vs. Weber State.

"He's still improving at being on the attack but being under control without turning the ball over," coach Mick Cronin said. "For a young guy, that's the hardest thing to learn."

NOTES, QUOTES

G Lance Stephenson closed out the regular season with a rush, averaging 16.8 points a game over the final four games and continued to be a force in the Big East Tournament.

Coach Mick Cronin has a big coaching job ahead. He hopes to bring Dion Dixon back to being himself after having the turnover that cost Cincinnati a chance to win its quarterfinal game in the Big East tournament with an upset over its former coach Bob Huggins and West Virginia.

Cincinnati comes into the tournament used to playing top competition. The Bearcats had the 12th-toughest schedule in the nation, playing 13 teams in the top 50.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The misnomer about us is we haven't played well. We just played a lot of close games. We've been on the wrong side of a lot of close losses. I'm proud of the guys for being able to put that behind them."

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

SCOUTING REPORT: It was Louisville F Samardo Samuels who best summed up Cincinnati after losing to the Bearcats in the first round of the Big East tournament.

"They're like football players," Samuels said. "Push in the back; they're real physical. They just out-toughed us."

Cincinnati takes a tough guy approach to basketball. Their game is built on rebounding and defense. They don't shoot particularly well, ranking 13th in field goal percentage in the Big East regular season. When they are at their best, G Deonta Vaughn is scoring from the outside, but he has had a tough senior season. Freshman Lance Stephenson, considered the top recruit in the nation, has come on strong of late but still can be forced into making freshman mistakes. If you can keep Cincinnati off the boards, they can't do enough of anything else to beat you.

GAME REVIEW:

Cincinnati 69, Rutgers 68

Cincinnati 69, Louisville 66 (Big East tournament first round)

West Virginia 54, Cincinnati 51 (Big East tournament second round)

Cincinnati 76, Weber State 62 (NIT first round)

GAME PREVIEW:

Vs. Dayton, Monday, March 22 (NIT second round)

ROSTER REPORT:

G Lance Stephenson was named the Big East's Rookie of the Year after leading the Bearcats in scoring. While there was talk that he would be heading for the NBA after a year, Stephenson appears set to return for a second season at Cincinnati.


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