The Cincinnati Bearcats picked up their 7th Big East road victory in a row dating back to last season, and 3rd this year with a 70-67 victory over the UConn Huskies.
Mick Cronin's Cincinnati Bearcats have won 7 consecutive road games in Big East play dating back to last season. (photo credit: Brian Baker/Lacking Focus Photography)
For the second time in nine days the Bearcats have gone on the road and defeated the #11 team in the country, and tonight it was in dramatic fashion.
After controlling most of the first half and weathering the Huskies storm in the second to go up by 8 with just under 3 minutes remaining on a Sean Kilpatrick three it was a lead that wasn't safe for long.
From there the Cats went ice cold from the line as Sean Kilpatrick missed the front end of two one and ones while Dion Dixon went 2-4 and that set the stage for Huskies point guard Shabazz Napier to score 10 in the final minute to tie the game at 67 with under 10 seconds remaining.
“It would have been a tragic loss when we started missing free throws up 8 with our best foul shooters getting fouled,” head coach Mick Cronin said after the win. “We kept it exciting I guess for the ESPN boys.”
With the score tied and time running out Cronin elected not to call a time out as Sean Kilpatrick took the inbound pass and dribbled up the right side. UConn star Jeremy Lamb sagged off playing the drive and Kilpatrick connected on a cold-blooded triple from the wing to produce the final three of his UC high 16 points in the victory.
“When you've got good players, you're going to win games,” said Cronin. “They're playing as a team, and they're playing to win. We're trying to stay aggressive, we're staying together for 40 minutes and you're seeing the results.”
There was plenty of adversity to overcome as the Huskies quickly erased a 42-33 halftime margin and 46-35 deficit early in the 2nd half with a 15-4 run to tie with 11:52 remaining.
It was all Cincinnati over the next 9 minutes behind a defense that has been stellar late in games.
“This is a good trait.” Cronin said. “In the last 10 minutes of games we're a different team defensively. It was 65-57 when they start to foul and we really locked down after their run. A big part of that was Yancy on the defensive glass and we did a better job on our defensive backboard.”
Gates had his 3rd strong game in a row against a talented front line, and this time put up a double double with 13 points and 12 rebounds against a guy in Andre Drummond (4 pts 6 reb) who many consider to be one of the two best NBA prospects in college basketball.
“He's not getting a lot of touches on offense, but he's got a double double,” said Cronin. “All he cares about is winning and he's trying to rebound the ball and prove he can rebound out of his area. He's bought in hook, line and sinker.”
While Gates had a good night on the glass, and the Cats held their own late it was still a 38-29 edge for UConn on the boards.
The rebounding disparity was again negated by UC because was able to take care of the basketball and force 11 UConn turnovers. Cincinnati has not turned it over more than 9 times in Big East play, and backed up their school record 3 turnover showing against Villanova by only giving it away 6 times against the Huskies.
Protecting the ball and getting easy scores off the opponents miscues has been the recipe for success of late, and it got the team another win on the road along with maintaining sole possession of 2nd place in the Big East.
“To win on the road you cannot turn the ball over,” Cronin said. “17-9 we win points off turnovers, our last 3 games now 67 points off the other teams turnovers. We're converting theirs and we're not turning the ball over.”