Cincinnati obtained its first marquee win of the season Monday when the Bearcats prevailed over No. 24 Vanderbilt, 67-58. Under fourth-year coach Mick Cronin, Cincinnati has been built on a foundation of athleticism, aggression and physicality. At times, those base qualilties lead to fruitful results. At others, they lead to critical issues.
"The best question I’ve been asked all preseason was by a non-reporter," Cronin said Monday. "A producer from ESPN asked me, ‘Do we have enough to win on an off night? Do we have enough intangibles? Do we have enough veterans? Do we understand what it takes to really win?’ And the answer to that, I think we gave an answer to that tonight. We’re not reliant upon one guy. We’re not reliant upon being pretty on the offensive end."
Rather, the Bearcats (3-0) are reliant upon their ability to rebound and create second chance scoring opportunities. Senior guard Deonta Vaughn (6-foot-1, 190 lbs.) leads a trio of perimeter players full of inconsistent marksmanship and undisciplined instinct. Vaughn, the team's leading returning scorer, took three shot attempts against Vanderbilt and finished with eight points.
Like many of the other guards in Cincinnati's dribble-penetrate offense, Vaughn frequently drives into the lane and hopes for the best. A scout for an NBA franchise who watched Cincinnati play Monday said that if Vaughn gets into an offensive rhythm early, he becomes increasingly difficult to stop.
The player primarily in charge of distributing the ball for Cincinnati is redshirt freshman guard Cashmere Wright (6-foot-0, 175 lbs.). Wright also prefers to drive deep into the lane before spinning and then deciding whether to force up a shot or dish to a nearby teammate. Wright shot 2 of 13 against Vanderbilt, and the scout said if an opposing defender can keep pressure on Wright, the point guard will either take a bad shot or make a bad decision with the pass.
And then there's freshman swingman Lance Stephenson (6-foot-5, 210 lbs.). You all remember Stephenson, of course. He's the highly-touted, highly-controversial player Maryland courted back in the spring. Well, not much has changed about Stephenson's game since arriving on a college campus. He's still extremely physical, takes very powerful strides to the basket, often looks to shoot first and second, and has a streaky shot. Stephenson's immense talent reveals itself, at this point in his career, in brief flashes. He tallied eight points, five rebounds and three steals against Vanderbilt. He is averaging 10.3 points and 4 rebounds per contest thus far. He is shooting 36.4 percent from the field.
Cincinnati offers some decent size in the post. Sophomore Yancy Gates (6-foot-9, 260 lbs.), junior Rashad Bishop (6-foot-6, 225 lbs.) and senior Steve Toyloy (6-foot-8, 255 lbs.) each bring a physicality to the game that Maryland has not yet faced in an opposing team this season. Gates, in particular, stands out.
"He’s tough to deal with," Cronin said of Gates. "He’s put a lot of work in trying to make himself into a rebounder ... When he dominates the game physically sometimes he doesn’t understand that he’s the best athlete of all the big guys on the floor most nights we play. I thought his aggression also had an effect on his teammates."
Gates is averaging 11.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game this season. He is shooting 57.7 percent from the field.
The player expected to be Cincinnati's top offensive contributor off the bench is sophomore guard Dion Dixon (6-foot-3, 195 lbs.). Dixon struggled in the first two games of the season before breaking out against Vanderbilt. He tallied 12 points and 10 rebounds in 30 minutes Monday.
Junior guard Larry Davis (6-foot-3, 195 lbs.) also provides Cincinnati with some backcourt depth. Davis is one of the team's better perimeter defenders and has some range on his shot.
Posted by: GaryWilliamsJr | November 24, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse
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