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January 7, 2009The Cincinnati Bearcats (10-5, 0-2 Big East) fell to the Providence Friars (11-4, 3-0 Big East) by a final score on 87-79 on Wednesday night, dropping their record to just five games over .500.
The loss is the third consecutive for the Bearcats, and they find themselves still without a Big East win heading in to this weekend's matchup with Connecticut.
After the game, Head Coach Mick Cronin talked about his team's inability to win games, particularly on the defensive end.
"It's fairly obvious our defense was not up to par," said Cronin. "That being said Providence is a tough team to defend because they are a veteran team and they can shoot the ball. The back-breakers weren't the shots, though. The backbreakers are hand check fouls and allowing them 24 second half free throws. Until we can get 5 guys on the floor who can defend, and know when it's crunch time, we are going to continue to struggle."
Despite the loss, the Bearcats were led in scoring by Deonta Vaughn and Mike Williams, who each finished with 20 points.
Williams said after the game that he was just trying to run the offensive sets, and contribute as much as possible.
"I didn't really do anything different," said Williams. "I just tried to play within our offense."
The Bearcats were the victims of a deadly shooting attack by Providence throughout most of the night. The Friars shot 53 percent from the field, including an incredible 12-for-24 from behind the arc.
The Bearcats outrebounded the Friars 40-34 in the end, but it was the final stretch of the game where rebounding proved to be the difference maker. Providence was able to win that battle, and effectively put away the game.
With just under one minute remaining in the game, and the Bearcats within two, Providence turned missed shot after missed shot into more opportunities. Eventually, after pulling down 3 offensive rebounds on the possession, Jeff Xavier made 3 point basket that effectively iced the game for the Friars.
Coach Cronin also talked after the game about that play, along with a few other back breaking moments that occurred because of the team's inability to pull down key rebounds.
"They hit some really though shots," said Cronin. "A couple of those times, those were there second attempt. They only finished with seven rebounds, but when you play the style of play you aren't going to be a great offensive rebounding team. A couple times we didn't block out and they got the ball and hit a three which crushed us."
Despite being asked questions regarding all facets of the game, Cronin made it very clear that defense is the number one concern.
"Everybody wants to be concerned about offense," said Cronin. "All that does is exemplify how inexperienced we are, and how much we need to learn about how to win games. Talent doesn't make great defense. It's heart, focus, energy and intensity."
Despite the loss, Williams and Vaughn said the meeting held between the players earlier this week was still a big help.
"It helped," said Williams. "It definitely helped. But I still feel that we still have a lot to work on, and we need to step it up defensively."
Deonta Vaughn continued on regarding the defense, "We know what we need to do on the defensive end," said Vaughn. "Once the opposing team hits a shot and goes up we hang our heads. We just have to fight and keep talking to each other throughout the game."
The Bearcats are no doubt disappointed with their play Wednesday night, but they will need to immediately turn their attention to this Saturday as things will only get tougher - - much tougher. The Bearcats will welcome the Connecticut Huskies to 5th 3rd Arena in a game that could either serve as some sort of redemption for the Bearcats, or another disappointing conference defeat.