Monday, February 22, 2010

Marquette 79 Cincinnati 76 OT


Normally in this space, I write a little recap of how the game ended, and who the stars were. Not today. This was the biggest game of the season for the Bearcats. It was also one of the most disappointing. It was also a microcosm of the season. The Bearcats did some things well, and did some things badly. The end of the first half, phenomenal. In the end, it was the things that they did badly that cost them. They fell in love with the 3. They missed a ton of free throws, 8-16. They had defensive breakdowns at key times late. They stood around on offense. No one stepped up to take charge. And finally, coaching was an issue. I am a Mick fan, I've said it before, but I can't justify not playing Yancy Gates at the end of regulation. I don't know why you don't go offense/defense with him. I don't know why after he dominated against a small Marquette front court, 14 points, 6-9 shooting, 2-2 free throws, he rode the bench the last 7 minutes. Lazar Hayward had 4 fouls, and probably wouldn't have challenged. UC has run plays for Gates in close games, but Yancy doesn't see the floor. He played only 22 minutes. I like Ibrahima Thomas, but he's not a low post threat. At the end of the game, Marquette wasn't worried about him scoring. With Gates in the game, you damn well know Marquette is going to sag the post, which could only help get a better shot. Yancy Gates was finally playing like the monster that we know he can be on offense, and yet he sits for whatever reason. And you know what? I'm not sure that I care what Mick has to say about it. I understand wanting to play 3 guards at the end, but why not 3 guards, Bishop and Gates? I don't get it. It wasn't Mick's fault that Rashad Bishop leaves his feet and gives Hayward an open look to tie. It's not Mick's fault, but it partially is, for Dion Dixon and Deonta Vaughn getting confused, when Marquette was inbounding the ball with 15 seconds left in overtime, and leaving Jimmy Butler wide open for a breakaway dunk. It's not Mick's fault that Deonta Vaughn missed an open 3 off the right wing to tie at the end of overtime. This was a loss we couldn't take, in a way we couldn't take it. Let's break it down.

Deonta Vaughn got a rare start on the bench today. As the ESPN Full Court announcers, and Anthony Buford, told us, it was a coaches decision. Cashmere Wright ended up in the lineup. The scoring started when Steve Toyloy threw a pass to Darius Johnson-Odom, who plays for Marquette, and JO, as I'm calling him now, took it for a lay up. Ibrahima Thomas made a pair of free throws, JO made a 3, and my best friend Dion Dixon drilled a 3 to leave us 5-5 at 15:36. Larry Davis and Lazar Hayward traded triples, but Dixon accounted for the next 3 on a free throw after an offensive rebound, and an assist to Rashad Bishop. Jimmy Butler made a traditional 3 point play as we went back and forth. A Yancy Gates turnaround j was met by a JO 3. Gates free throws were followed by a Davis 3, and down 18-14 with 12:15 left in the half, that's where Marquette made a run. With the Cats playing zone, Joseph Fulce nailed a 3 and a lay up off an airballed 3 point attempt where Gates was late getting back. Dixon had a shot blocked by Butler, and Maurice Acker raced down court and drew a foul, making both shots. Jimmy Butler nailed a 3 right in front of Toyloy, who hesitated in the zone. Butler followed that by drawing a foul on Toyloy, and making both shots. With UC forcing shots, Johnson-Odom hit a 3, followed by a runner to cap the Marquette 17-0 run. The lead was up to 31-18, and shades of last year were dancing in the air. But, the Bearcats turned it around. In the last 6:40, UC played their best basketball of the season. Larry Davis drilled a 3 off a Thomas steal of Hayward. Another turnover lead to a Dixon lay up. A Dixon steal of a thrown away pass by JO lead to a Deonta Vaughn jumper from the left wing. JO threw up an airball that turned into a Dixon triple causing a Marquette timeout. Jimmy Butler had his shot attempt blocked by Rashad Bishop that lead to the only UC miss, a Cash jumper. But, Yancy Gates gathered the rebound, scored, and pulled UC to down 1. After an Acker miss, Dixon hit Bishop for a lay up that gave UC the lead at the 2:46 timeout. Marquette broke the 14-0 run with 2 free throws by Hayward, but UC retook the lead with a Bishop 3. After a couple Marquette misses, and Deonta missing a pair of free throws, Cash came flying down the lane and hit Gates with a beautiful behind the back pass for a wide open dunk bringing the house down. David Cubillan threw a pass right to Dixon, who fed Cash for a lay up, putting the lead at 39-33. The last shot of the half by Fulce was blocked by Gates, and UC went into intermission with that lead on a 21-2 run. I'm not lying when I say that was the best they looked. Great defense, great hustle, great teamwork, great shot selection. It was interesting that there was no Lance Stephenson the first half. Lance played about 6 minutes I would guess. The lineup was mainly Vaughn, Bishop, Davis, Dixon, with Thomas, and Gates switching and Cash getting run at point. 

Marquette was 10-24, 6-13 deep, 7-7 free throws, 11 rebounds, 3 offensive. They were lead by Johnson-Odom's 13, Jimmy Butler's 8-2 steals, Lazar Hayward's 5, Joseph Fulce's 5-3, and Maurice Acker's 2-3. UC shot 14-26, 6-9, 5-8, with 15 boards 5 offensive. UC had 12 assists on their 14 shots. Outstanding. The Cats were lead by Dion Dixon's 9-3-3 assists, Larry Davis' 9, Yancy Gates' 8-2, Rashad Bishop's 7-2, and Ibrahima Thomas, Cashmere Wright, and Deonta Vaughn all had 2-2, with Vaughn tossing in 3 assists. From deep, Davis was 3-5, Dixon 2-2 and Bishop 1-1. Who saw that coming? 

Marquette came out the locker room on a mission. Gates started the half with a jumper, but Johnson-Odom answered with a traditional three point play. A Dixon 3 was answered by a JO 2. A Gates 2 answered by a Cubillan 3. Gates would block an Acker shot, but Jimmy Butler got the loose ball and scored. JO got to the rim, and at the under 16 break, it was 46-45 UC. The teams traded buckets until the 11 minute mark, with Bishop and Vaughn scoring a jumper and a lay up respectively, Butler with another Eagle traditional 3 point play, Steve Toyloy getting a dunk off a spin move assist by Vaughn, 2 Butler free throws, Lance Stephenson's only jumper and points, and finally a Fulce lay up. 54-52 was the score with 11:06 on the clock, and the UC lead wouldn't last long. Davis drilled a long 2, Fulce got a tip in off a Hayward miss. Charges by Cash and Butler, and a missed 3 by Dixon set the stage for a Maurice Acker 3 for the Marquette lead, 57-56, with 9:35 left. The offenses went stagnant for a couple minutes until Gates got a tip in off a Dixon miss, off a Davis steal from Butler. Fulce, who came into the game averaging 3 points, hit a jumper, and after Davis hot shotted a pass through Bishop's hands, got a bucket from a Butler offensive rebound. That was the last of Fulce's crucial 13. Cincinnati called a timeout at that point, with 7 minutes to go down 3, 61-58. Yancy Gates and Lance Stephenson didn't play another minute. In fact, only Wright, Davis, Dixon, Bishop, Vaughn and Thomas played from here out. Neither team scored for a minute and a half, when Davis hit Bishop with a great pass for a lay up to start a UC run. Vaughn went hard to the rim for 2, and Thomas sprinted back after a Hayward miss to get a lay up on a good outlet from Vaughn. UC lead 64-61 with 3:53 left. The defenses stiffened for the next 2 minutes. David Cubillan stepped up to nail a 3 with 1:39 on the clock to tie the score. The Cats answered back with a bad 3 by Cash, but a right place, right time rebound and put back by Davis. Cubillan would miss a subsequent shot. With the ball out of bounds, UC for some reason had Ibrahima Thomas in the game, and in the back court. Of course Ibby was left open because he's a shitty foul shooter. He made 1 of 2 with 43 seconds left. Marquette ran a screen and pop to get the ball to Hayward. Hayward hadn't scored in the half, but got Bishop to jump on a pump fake, and drilled a 3 with 27.5 left. Inexcusable play by Rashad. I wrote at length about not having Gates in the game up top, and UC could have used him, because the shot they got off was a Bishop 3. Of course it was no good because it was a Bishop 3. 

UC won the overtime tip, but in a precursor, had an over and back violation. Hayward and Thomas exchanged buckets, and Butler and Thomas exchanged 1 of 2s at the charity stripe. The turning point came with 2 minutes left. Lazar Hayward dropped a 3. Deonta would badly miss a rushed 3, but Butler would get blocked by Thomas. Cash made a great move past Cubillan, or Acker, but blew an open lay up. Like he missed by 2 feet. Bishop got the rebound, but made, guess what 1 of 2. Marquette took a timeout with 45 seconds left, 11 on the shot clock. The play got Jimmy Butler a lay up attempt, but Bishop fouled him. Butler made both with 38 seconds left, exactly what we needed from Ibby in regulation. UC wasted 17 seconds by standing around and dribbling before Vaughn hit Bishop for a lay up. UC trapped Hayward on the sideline in front of the UC coaches, and was forced to call time with 17 seconds. UC looked in a disarray on the Marquette stack play. As the announcer, clearly a Marquette guy, said "Butler is going long," Butler went long. Dixon, maybe Vaughn if they were supposed to switch, got caught on a pick, leaving Butler wide open and Hayward hit him for a dunk. UC got a Bishop 3 with 7.7 left though. This where that wasted, let's say 12 seconds, killed. Acker was fouled and calmly drilled both. UC ran a clever play where they inbounded to Thomas at half court, who flipped to Cash. Cash dribbled to the left wing and when he got pressured, he passed over to Deonta on the right wing. Deonta caught, had an open look, and missed. Ballgame. #5 has got to make that. Another poor shooting day, 3-8, 0-3, 0-2, on an otherwise strong day for Vaughn. And boy was it costly.

All credit to the Marquette Golden Eagles. If it appears I have slighted them in any way, I didn't mean to. They played strong, and focused, and never faltered. I have said it the past few weeks, this is a tournament team. The Eagles shot 26-57 45.6%, 11-27 40.7%, 16-17 94%. They gathered 33 boards, 9 offensive. They outrebounded UC 21-16 the second half and OT. Leading the Golden Eagles were Jimmy Butler 20-7-3, Darius Johnson-Odom 20, Lazar Hayward 13-11, Joseph Fulce 13-5, Maurice Acker 7-4-6 assists, and David Cubillan 6, both daggers. 

UC finished 30-63 47.6%, 8-20 40%, 8-16 50%, with 31 rebounds, 12 offensive. UC had 20 assists. Rashad Bishop lead the way with 17-5, Yancy Gates had 14-2 blocks in 22 minutes, Larry Davis had 13-3 assists, Dion Dixon 12-3-3 assists-2 steals, Ibrahima Thomas 8-6, Deonta Vaughn 6-7-6 assists, Cashmere Wright 2-3-4 assists, and Steve Toyloy and Lance Stephenson both had 2, and both played 11 minutes. Great efforts by the bench, as Gates, Vaughn, Davis and Dixon came of it. Davis and Dixon had great 1st halves, but had nothing the second half. Especially my best friend. They played hard, all of them. 

At the end of the day, I don't know what to think about this team. I don't imagine the last 3 turning out well, and like the commenter JFK said, I have no idea how they are going to come out Wednesday night against DePaul. And at this point, who does? 

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