Jan 4, 2012, 10:23 PM EST
The last three weeks weren’t easy for Yancy Gates.
Cincinnati’s senior center was the center of an ugly brawl with Xavier on Dec. 10, and with good reason. He lost his cool, slugged Kenny Frease and has spent most of his time since then apologizing and playing it cool while the Bearcats won six straight.
Gates’ suspension ended Wednesday, though he didn’t step back into the starting lineup against Notre Dame. But when he did enter the game, the season-high crowd of 10,142 made it worth his while with a standing ovation.
He scored all six of his points in 12 first-half minutes, and ended up playing 21 in all. He also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds and blocked six shots in Cincinnati’s 71-55 win, its seventh straight win. Perhaps this new role will work out.
“I like the offense the way it’s spread out,” Gates told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “The guards are attacking and the defense has to watch everybody. It’s way better. There were a couple of times when I was out of position, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected.”
At worst, it gives Bearcats coach Mick Cronin some lineup flexibility.
His four starting guards – Sean Kilpatrick, Dion Dixon, Cashmere Wright and Jaquon Parker – combined for 47 points, 12 assists, nine steals and just four turnovers Wednesday. (Cheikh Mbodj and Octavius Ellis also returned from suspensions, but Ellis didn’t play.)
Notre Dame was an ideal opponent for using four guards (the Irish do the same. It’ll be more of the same against St. John’s on Saturday. By the time Georgetown (and it’s slightly bigger lineup) rolls around on Jan. 9 the Bearcats will probably have it all worked out.
Who knew there was an upside to brawls?
You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.
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