Cincinnati sweeps away Memphis State Bearcats stalk semis after 88-57 romp


KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Cincinnati Bearcats are going to the Final Four with an attitude.


Attack on offense. Attack on defense. Attack with your mouth. Attack with your eyes. Attack first. Attack last. And in between, attack.

Yesterday, for the fourth time this season, the Bearcats beat Great Midwest Conference foe Memphis State. "Beat" isn't the proper word. The final score was 88-57. And the Bearcats were annoyed about those 57.

Cincinnati, a school with a rich basketball tradition that had sort of stagnated since its last Final Four appearance, in 1963, is returning to the national championship chase with a vengeance.

"We hate it when the other team scores," center Corie Blount said. "It's like, 'How could we let that happen?' "

The 57-point lapse aside, Cincinnati (29-4) is champion of the NCAA's Midwest Regional. The Bearcats had started the tournament as the No. 4 seed in the Midwest. Which annoyed them.

"We deserved a much higher seed, at least a No. 2," coach Bob Huggins had said. But seedings don't much matter. Cincinnati will play Michigan, a No. 6 seed, Saturday in the semifinals.

Cincinnati, whose roster is filled almost entirely with junior-college players and other transfers, has adopted Huggins' furious style of aggressive, pressing defense and a fearless offense of quick three-pointers and thumping rebounding.

When the Bearcats play defense, the team becomes one gooey blob, moving as one and filling every crevice, every space, with their moving arms and swinging legs.

On offense, anybody can shoot a three, but if you don't shoot it, you'd better be --ing for the rebound. Or you'll be --ing to the bench, listening to the manic Huggins scream until he puts you back in the game to try again.

Memphis State (23-11), which had lost to the Bearcats twice in the regular season and again in the first Great Midwest Conference tournament championship, certainly knew what to expect.

"We know about their press and their defense and stuff," said Memphis State sophomore Anfernee Hardaway. "But we missed some easy shots early and made some bad plays, and everything just got away from us."

Perhaps the Tigers were trying too hard to emulate Cincinnati's style. But both of Memphis State's starting guards, Tony Madlock and Billy Smith, plus Hardaway, collected three fouls and spent big chunks of the first half on the bench.

The Bearcats used a late first-half spurt to build a 46-36 lead at halftime. As the teams left the court, Cincinnati's starting guards, Nick Van Exel and Anthony Buford, each made a point of waving four fingers in the face of the Tigers.

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad