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Updated: Thursday, January 15, 2004 12:05 AM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(7) Cincinnati 85, (21) Marquette 73

MILWAUKEE (Ticker) -- Eric Hicks and Cincinnati outmuscled Marquette to remain atop Conference USA.

Hicks collected 15 points and 10 rebounds as the seventh-ranked Bearcats backed up their strong words with an 85-73 triumph over the 21st-ranked Golden Eagles.

Cincinnati (12-0, 3-0 C-USA) talked all week about how badly it wanted a victory over Marquette, which had won five of the previous seven matchups. Shooting guard Tony Bobbitt was among the most outspoken, telling local newspapers how the Bearcats planned to hound Golden Eagles star Travis Diener.

Buoyed by a ferocious inside game that featured the work of Hicks, Cincinnati took control with a 15-6 run to close the first half for a 34-25 advantage. Hicks made a free throw to start the run and Nick Williams scored eight points.

"We were ready to play. I don't think there was any doubt that we were ready to play," Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins said. "We were looking for a challenge."

Marquette (11-2, 2-1) pulled within 36-31 on back-to-back 3-pointers by Diener and Steve Novak early in the second half. Jason Maxiell answered with a jumper, Williams drained a 3-pointer and Bobbitt's basket made it 43-31 with 16:15 to go.

The Bearcats ended a three-game skid at the Bradley Center, winning here for the first time since the 1999-2000 season. The Golden Eagles suffered their second loss in their last 40 games here.

Field Williams' 3-pointer opened a 50-35 cushion with 12:23 to go. The Golden Eagles scored the next seven points but never got closer than seven.

Bobbitt scored 18 points off the bench as Cincinnati's reserves totaled 38 points. The Bearcats' depth was a big factor in the pressure defense that forced 23 turnovers, including 16 in the first half.

"I think our depth is good, that is why we are doing what we are doing," Huggins said. "That is why we are trying to play a little faster and extend the court."

"The first half was bad. Sixteen turnovers in one half and 23 for the game is bad," Diener said. "I took responsibility for that, I had a lot of turnovers and need to make better decisions as a point guard."

Nick Williams led Cincinnati's starters with 16 points, draining all three 3-point attempts. Field Williams added 13 points and beefy center Kareem Johnson added 11 and six boards.

The Bearcats won the battle of the boards, 37-28. Hicks was the catalyst with nine points and six rebounds by halftime, overwhelming Marquette's Terry Sanders.

"They have an incredible mentality for offensive rebounding," Marquette coach Tom Crean said. "We just didn't match that. We didn't strike first and they did, and they won the game."

Diener finished with 19 points and nine assists but also was hounded into a season-high five turnovers. The Golden Eagles received a spark in the second half from freshman backup wing player Dameon Mason, who had 13 points but mixed in five turnovers.


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