Bearcats Claw Their Way To a Win

Eric Hicks put Cincinnati on his back in the second half, and carried the Bearcats to a 70-66 victory over Marquette. Today, Marquette was on the receiving end of a phenomenal performance, as Hicks 22 points, 12 rebounds (11 in 2nd half), and 10 blocks helped lead the charge during the Bearcats second half comeback.

Eric Hicks put Cincinnati on his back in the second half, and carried the Bearcats to a 70-66 victory over Marquette. Today, Marquette was on the receiving end of a phenomenal performance, as Hicks 22 points, 12 rebounds (11 in 2nd half), and 10 blocks helped lead the charge during the Bearcats second half comeback.

"Eric Hicks refused to let this team lose in the second half," stated Cincinnati head coach Andy Kennedy. "The will to win is pretty strong with group. We continued to be resilient, we continued to fight."

Along with Hicks brilliant performance, Armein Kirkland played his best game of year according to Coach Kennedy. Along with 14 points and 5 rebounds, it was Kirkland's stifling defense on Marquette sharpshooter Steve Novak that helped Cincinnati contain Marquette to 29 percent from field in second half.

Marquette, which led 46-36 at halftime, struggled in all facets of game in second half, being outrebounded 26-17 and committing 9 turnovers.

"We did not do a good job of playing a full forty minutes," stated Marquette head coach Tom Crean. "We were not patient and poised enough to keep the lead."

Even with the second half struggles, Marquette had an opportunity to tie with 16.6 seconds left, but a missed Jerel McNeal three and a final free throw by Jihad Muhammad iced the win for Bearcats.

Coming off his amazing 41 point, 16 rebound performance against Connecticut, Steve Novak followed with another strong game, as he had another double-double with 17 points, 13 in first half, and 10 rebounds.

"Kirkland really bore down on me in the second half," stated Novak. "He really did a great job."

Along with the disappointment of a tough loss, Novak's consecutive free throw streak was snapped at 68 after a second half miss. The miss proved to be an omen of missed opportunity.

"He hadn't missed a free throw since I had hair," stated Coach Kennedy.

Despite playing through flu-like symptoms, Dominic James had a strong game, scoring 18 points to go along with 6 rebounds and 4 assists.

However, it was a game to forget for fellow freshman Jerel McNeal. Along with missing a three that would have tied the game and likely sent it to overtime, McNeal struggled from field, hitting just 7 of his 21 shots, and committing 2 key turnovers during Bearcats second half push.

Still, his teammates have full confidence that McNeal will rebound and continue his excellent play as a freshman.

"The next time Jerel has a game-winning shot, he'll make it," stated Novak. A positive coming from the loss was the effort of Ousmane Barro. Barro scored six points, and showed aggression in the post and taking the ball to the basket even while hampered with foul trouble throughout second half. Along with his offensive effort, he took a big charge late in the game that gave Marquette an opportunity to stem Cincinnati's momentum, one which they did not capitalize.

Going forward, Marquette has a three game road-trip with visits to Seton Hall, West Virginia and DePaul.

"We need to continue to challenge each other at a high level," states Crean. "There are no more JV games left, they're all varsity."

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