3:30 PM ET, February 9, 2003
Fifth Third Arena, Cincinnati, Ohio
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Leonard Stokes couldn't even fill up his gas tank the past few days without hearing the question: Cincinnati wasn't going to lose four in a row, was it?He and Jason Maxiell gave an emphatic answer Sunday: No way. Maxiell scored a career-high 24 points and Stokes had 15 points and 10 rebounds as the Bearcats posted a 61-50 victory over Oklahoma State (No. 12 ESPN/USA Today; No. 11 Associated Press), ending a three-game losing streak that was the talk of the town. ''I was getting gas and a police officer said, 'You can't lose four in a row,''' Stokes said. ''Everywhere you went, people were telling us we can't lose four in a row.'' No Cincinnati team has lost four consecutive during Bob Huggins' 14 seasons as head coach. Banished from their plush locker room for poor effort during the slump, the Bearcats (14-6) came out determined to avoid infamy. ''Today was our Super Bowl,'' point guard Taron Barker said. ''It was do or die. If we'd have lost this game, we might as well have hung it up right there.'' Cincinnati's tight man-to-man defense sent Oklahoma State (18-3) into a second-half tailspin. The Cowboys missed 16 of their first 18 shots in the half, allowing the Bearcats to turn a one-point deficit into a 14-point lead. ''We couldn't buy a basket and we couldn't play defense,'' said forward Andre Williams, who fouled out with only two points and three rebounds. ''I blame myself for a majority of it. I came out and played flat. I let my man score 24 points, a career high.'' Oklahoma State never got closer than nine points the rest of the way. The Cowboys shot a season-low 34 percent from the field, including 2-for-12 on 3-point attempts. Victor Williams led Oklahoma State with 18 points, but had only two assists as the offense bogged down for a second consecutive game. The Cowboys shot only 38.6 percent from the field in a 63-55 victory over Kansas State on Wednesday. ''Victor did a very poor job running the ballclub,'' coach Eddie Sutton said. ''We've regressed. I told them in the locker room: 'You aren't playing as well as you were two or three weeks ago.' It's just poor execution. We don't cut hard and we don't screen as well as we should.'' Two of the nation's top half-court defenses set a slog-it-out pace, with open shots hard to find. Cincinnati led 27-26 after a back-and-forth first half that featured two ties, 10 lead changes and no lead of more than five points. Oklahoma State missed nine consecutive shots -- several from right under the basket -- and two free throws during the Bearcats' 14-point run early in the second half. Field Williams had two 3-pointers as Cincinnati went ahead 41-28 and was never seriously challenged again. Cincinnati gives up only 58.9 points a game, eighth in the nation, and Oklahoma State allows 60.3. Maxiell was the only player on either team who could score consistently. The 6-foot-7 power forward was 7-for-10 for 16 points in the first half, repeatedly hitting turnaround jumpers and close-up shots over taller defenders. Maxiell, who had 21 points in a defeat at No. 5 Louisville on Wednesday, made seven of Cincinnati's 11 field goals in the half, keeping the Bearcats in the game. With Oklahoma State's balky offense bogged down, Sutton went to a spread offense midway through the first half. It didn't work -- the Cowboys got three shot-clock violations in the half, two out of the spread offense. ''Cincinnati has a great defense, but we weren't capitalizing or scoring off our plays,'' said forward Ivan McFarlin, who fouled out with nine points and six rebounds. ''We had to settle for pick-and-rolls and the spread offense.'' Huggins also tried a few different things. At one point, he went to a zone defense for one possession, then had his team switch back to man-to-man. The capacity crowd gave a loud ovation to reserve guard Tony Bobbitt, who quit Cincinnati's team, missed the defeat at Louisville and was reinstated. Bobbitt got into the game with 5:50 left in the first half, and Huggins screamed at him for shoddy defense less than two minutes later. Bobbitt missed both of his shots and was benched after shooting an air ball on a long 3-point attempt in the second half.
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