Bearcats Fall Short in Maui

Cincinnati could not finish out a strong run at the Maui Invitational, losing in the Championship to the Gonzaga Bulldogs 61-59. Mick Cronin's team looked tired in the overtime, going 2-7 from the free throw line and struggling with offensive execution.

The Bearcats were led by freshman Lance Stephenson who scored 15 points on 7-14 shooting and grabbed two rebounds. Stephenson set up Yancy Gates with a great feed in the last play of regulation, but there was a lot of contact, no call and Gates could not finish. Gates had a nice first half but struggled in half number two and finished with just eleven points on 4-12 shooting and added six rebounds.

Senior guard Deonta Vaughn struggled from the field going 3-10, 2-9 from three point range, and scored just eight points. Vaughn did have seven rebounds and five assists, but missed two big free throws in overtime.

The Defense for Cincinnati was outstanding tonight holding Gonzaga to just 61 points in 45 minutes, including overtime. Offensively the Bearcats have improvements that need to be made, they still don't do a good job moving without the ball. The Bearcats have settled for to many jump shots recently, and don't attack the basket. The fact was shown tonight when at the end of regulation the Bearcats had only attempted four free throws, a fact that doesn't make much sense with the amount of athleticism on this roster.

As for the positive, The Bearcats leave Maui with a 4-1 record and have two wins over top 25 teams. Lance Stephenson is starting to show he is what everyone expected him to be, and Yancy Gates has shown the improvement that makes you think he will be on of the best big men in the Big East this season.

Depth has shown to be a big factor for Mick Cronin's team, as Dion Dixon, Jaquon Parker, and Steve Toyloy are giving quality minutes of the bench. Cincinnati has shown there a physically team, perfect for the Big East style of play, and they can rebound with anyone. Another sign for optimism is that the Bearcats have done all this without Oklahoma State transfer Ibrahima Thomas, who will add a lot to the frontline when he gets added to the mix.

The trip was definitely a success for the Bearcats who just wore down a little to much to finish off the tournament after playing three games in three days. Head Coach Mick Cronin was happy about the trip to Maui and talked about the teams experience and future.

"First of all, we want to congratulate Gonzaga. They showed a lot of heart tonight. They know how to win and their tradition is established right now. They have guys that understand how to step it up. They were never going to go away. They were going to keep fighting."

"Obviously we're disappointed. I will say our trip to Maui has been excellent. We want to thank everybody for inviting us. Hopefully we'll be back."

"We're a better shooting team than we're shooting the ball right now. That's tough.

"At the end of the day this has been a great trip for us. Everybody can see that Cincinnati basketball is back on the map and we're not going anywhere. I'm glad that my players are distraught. They expected to win the game, they expected to win the tournament when we got on the plane. You have to have that attitude if you're going to be the program we want to be."

"We would have loved to win this championship; it would have been great for our program. Like I said, we believe this is the best tournament in the country. Even if we were up there celebrating and we win, it's still November. This is not the Big East, and we have to continue to improve because wins get a lot tougher to come by when you play in our conference. All you have to do is watch TV and look at the teams we play against and what they're doing on TV every night.

The Bearcats next game will be Tuesday December 1, 2009 at Fifth Third Arena, against Texas Southern. Cincinnati is 2-0 all-time vs. Texas Southern including a 82-51 win in 2008.

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