8:05 PM ET, February 25, 2004
Fifth Third Arena, Cincinnati, Ohio
CINCINNATI (AP) -- James White forgot about the long-range 3s and the flashy dunks. Instead, he went back to doing what he does best.The quick forward scored from here, there and just about everywhere.White kept it simple and got a career-high 23 points Wednesday night, leading Cincinnati (No. 12 ESPN/USA Today, No. 15 AP) to a 77-52 victory over Saint Louis. He also had 11 rebounds for his first career double-double.When Saint Louis geared its defense to stop Jason Maxiell from scoring upfront, White took advantage by finding short jumpers off his teammates' screens."We took a gamble and White was the one guy we didn't count on doing what he did," Billikens coach Brad Soderberg said.The strategy made sense. White sat out a season after transferring from Florida, and had been inconsistent with the Bearcats this season because he kept forcing shots. He made only one 3-pointer against Saint Louis, going 10-of-14 from the field.He also played some of his minutes at point guard and had seven assists, matching his career high."I just changed my game," White said. "I haven't been taking good shots. I've been shooting too many 3s. I'm normally comfortable making midrange shots and taking the ball to the basket."The Bearcats (19-5, 10-3) did just about anything they wanted to do while piling up 77 points, the most against Saint Louis (14-10, 7-5) this season. They also dominated the boards 44-22 despite the absence of 6-foot-10 center Robert Whaley, who quit the team on Monday.Field Williams added 20 points and made three consecutive 3-pointers that left Saint Louis down by 20 points in the second half, a deficit way too big to overcome.Williams, the Bearcats' best perimeter defender, also played a key role in shutting down guard Reggie Bryant, who is second in the conference in scoring at 17.2 points per game.Bryant missed six of his first seven shots as Cincinnati pulled ahead by 20. Bryant finished 2-of-9 from the field for 10 points.That wasn't the only problem for the Billikens, who had won their last three games. They had only one offensive rebound in the first half while Cincinnati took control."I don't often question our effort, but I questioned it today," Soderberg said. "My initial reaction is that we got outhustled."Center Kareem Johnson had 12 rebounds for Cincinnati, which didn't miss Whaley at all. The junior college transfer was the star of the Bearcats' recruiting class, but left the team on Monday because of his limited playing time.It hardly mattered. The Bearcats dominated in rebounds 27-9 in the first half, when they pulled ahead by 15 points. White made good use of teammates' screens, finding open shots near the basket as he scored 12 points in the half.Coach Bob Huggins decided to use White at point guard -- a position he has played sparingly this season -- because starter Nick Williams failed to score and had only one assist in 14 minutes."Nick's our point guard, but James played particularly well," Huggins said. "I'm tired of going with guys that are not producing. Guys that produce that day are going to play a lot of minutes."Saint Louis is accustomed to holding down opponents' shooters -- the Billikens give up an average of 57.1 points per game, the best mark in the conference. This time, the Billikens were the ones struggling to make shots.Saint Louis missed six consecutive shots midway through the first half, helping Cincinnati go on a 13-point run. One shot was an airball and another barely grazed the rim.In one telling moment late in the half, Bryant forced a shot from the left corner, and the ball smacked squarely on the side of the backboard and shot back toward him -- the ultimate rejection.Williams hit three consecutive 3-pointers, the second over Bryant from the left corner, to push the lead to 50-30 early in the second half. Saint Louis got the lead down to 11, but White hit two jumpers and Cincinnati once again pulled away.Saint Louis lost leading rebounder Tom Frericks when he aggravated his injured shoulder with 9:31 left. Frericks, who missed the Billikens' last game with a moderate shoulder separation, had seven rebounds when he left the game in pain after getting fouled under the basket.
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