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January 24, 2008

Bearcats can't hold on

After being able to hold on to late leads against Pittsburgh and Villanova, the Bearcats were unable to hold on to a 12-point lead with 5:52 remaining as UC fell to UConn, 84-83.

Head coach Mick Cronin cited turnovers down the stretch as the reason for late loss.

"Our repeated turnovers for lay-ups got us beat," Cronin said. "It's like I told Rashad Bishop, mystifying play at the end. He's a freshman but that's no different than the turnovers other guys committed leading up to that play that put us in that predicament."

For the game, UC committed 11 turnovers with five coming in the final 5:52 of the game. Those five turnovers led to eight UConn points.

Deonta Vaughn, who led all scorers with 34 points, also cited turnovers down the stretch for the loss.

"We turned the ball over a couple of times. I threw two silly passes, one was unforced," Vaughn said. "I didn't mean to throw a cross-court pass, I tried to fake it, but things happen."

Cronin also said he thought the wrong people may have handled the ball too much at the end of the game.

"You've got to make sure the right people have the ball," Cronin said. "You can't have equal-opportunity ball handling in the last four minutes of games. You've got to use people to break pressure, but you've got to get the ball back to people who can take care of the ball in those types of situations, and that's a learning process."

Coming into the game Cronin said he thought his team was ready to handle having a lead late in the game due to their preparation leading up to the UConn game.

"We tried to work on it really hard on it [holding on to leads] in the last couple of practices," Cronin said. "We really tried to prepare to have the lead like we did against Pitt. and make better decisions."

Against Pittsburgh, UC held a 13-point lead with 6:32 to play before seeing that lead whittled all the way down to two. However, in that game UC was able to hold on for the three-point victory.

Cronin said that being able to hold onto late leads is something you can't always simulate in practice, but something the players have to experience from time to time.

"What happens sometimes, in practice you can't simulate an aggressive team trying to get a steal with nothing to lose because they're down," Cronin said.

Despite the loss, UConn head coach Jim Calhoun said if the season ended today that Cronin would be Big East Coach of the Year hands down, but Cronin wasn't nearly as upbeat, putting the loss on his shoulders.

"I appreciate it, but right now I'm ready to fire myself because my team just blew a 12-point lead in the last 5:52," Cronin said. "You can't play for players, but you've got to take responsibility as a coach for what goes on the floor. We made some mistakes, but ultimately it's my job to make sure we don't do stuff like that."

The Bearcats look to get back on track when they travel to Seton Hall Sunday to take on the Pirates at noon.


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