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Louisville at Cincinnati

February 23, 2004 Columns No Comments

Louisville and Cincinnati – Ugly

by Zach Van Hart

CINCINNATI – When Louisville and Cincinnati faced each other Jan. 21, both teams were ranked in the top six in the country, as the game was built up as one of the biggest of the season in college basketball.

Exactly one month later the two squared off again and through 29 minutes the matchup had a different feel to it – a feeling like you were watching the worst game in basketball history.

If Dr. James Naismath were still alive today, he probably would have puked by halftime. If Dicky V. didn’t love saying, “It’s awesome baby,” over and over, he probably would have used different words to described the first 29 minutes. If Bob Huggins and Rick Pitino were not under contract, they likely would have left the building during intermission and checked out “Eurotrip” instead. If I had anything better to do I would have left too.

Yes, Cincinnati got revenge for its 27-point loss earlier in the season with a 66-61 overtime win against Louisville in exciting fashion. Yes, the game went to overtime. Yes, each team made huge shots during the end of regulation and during the extra five minutes. Both teams should have if for nothing else, making up for the dreadful first 29 minutes of the game.

Ugly is defined by Webster’s as: displeasing to the eye; unsightly; repulsive or offensive; objectionable. Here is a better definition: nineteen combined field goals, 55 combined points, less than ten combined assists and a 25 percent combined shooting percentage after 29 minutes of basketball.

Apparently, these two teams are two of the top sixteen teams in the country. Through 29 minutes Saturday that’s exactly what they looked like; two of the top sixteen high school teams in the country.

But then a basketball game broke out. Field Williams hit the first of many big shots, hitting a three-pointer from the wing while hitting the deck thanks to a Louisville foul. Williams converted the four-point play to give the Bearcats a 32-27 lead with 11:09 remaining in the game. Francisco Garcia answered with a trey of his own. But Cincinnati was on fire, as Jason Maxiell scored on the next possession, an amazing third-straight score by both teams combined. It was the first time all game three consecutive field goals found the hoop.

Neither team was finished though. After a Louisville turnover, the teams combined for another four straight scores. Tony Bobbitt, scoreless since Sunday, canned a three-pointer. Otis George hit a jumper. Williams nailed another three-pointer. Brandon Jenkins converted a layup. Suddenly the score was 40-34 and you would have thought these two teams had played the sport before.

From this point on, Fifth Third Arena hosted what the 13,176 in attendance wished for – a good basketball game. Louisville, which led for only 2:15 minutes during regulation, took its first lead since 12-10 with 56 seconds remaining, 51-50. The Bearcats responded with a Jason Maxiell jumper with 32 seconds to go, making it 52-51. The Cardinals came right back, as Nate Daniels drilled a three-pointer with sixteen seconds to make it 54-52, Louisville.

Cincinnati, apparently on cruise control the whole game, needed to make another play to win. It was a matter of which storyline they would follow: the first 29 minutes or the previous eleven. They chose to go with the latter of the two. Field Williams, with the game clock running down, drilled a jumper from about nineteen feet and six inches to tie the game at 54.

A thought that seemed like torture 30 minutes ago seemed like a good idea now – overtime. The extra session was a microcosm for regulation, as neither team scored during the first two minutes. Finally, both teams got going, with the Bearcats making more plays down the stretch. Bobbitt hit a huge three-pointer, Maxiell and Eric Hicks each nailed a hoop and the harm and Garcia, who scored a career high 27 points, could not make enough plays as Cincinnati held on for the win.

One could rave about this so-called big game, but honestly it doesn’t deserve it. Instead we will hand out some awards for the 83rd meeting between these rivals.

Ugliest stretch of the game – Final five minutes of the first half. The teams combined for one field goal, Armein Kirkland’s jumper with 20 seconds remaining.

And then a game broke out – Williams’ four-point play with 11:09 remaining in regulation.

Best shooter – Larry O’Bannon, who went 1-of-10 from the field.

Free throw of the game – Otis George with 18:24 remaining in regulation. The score stopped a six minute scoreless streak for Louisville.

Best line of the game – “This was a great college basketball game.” – Rick Pitino.

Great game? I guess that’s what you call it when you don’t lose by 25 points.


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