Bearcats pummel Friars, 81-66
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Perhaps the Friars were due for a letdown. After all, the previous four games were decided by a total of 12 points, and all four ended in excruciating fashion for PC.
What Providence ran into on Wednesday night in Cincinnati, OH was a Bearcat team playing with some desperation. Having dropped a 17-point decision to Marquette over the weekend, Cincinnati was in danger of losing momentum – if not relevance – for NCAA tournament consideration.
Thanks in part to a standout defensive effort in the first half, the Bearcats are still in the post-season conversation after beating back the Friars 81-66 at Fifth Third Arena.
Cincinnati held as much as a 24-point lead in the second half, only to see the Friars battle back themselves to within seven points with four and a half minutes to play. Without much help from the bench, and even less left in the gas tank from those who did play, PC simply had nothing left at the end in their search for an elusive Big East road win.
“I’m really proud of the effort we showed in the second half,” head coach Ed Cooley said afterward. “But we simply have to find a way to rebound the ball better, and not give up as many second chance points. Those are killing us right now. We’ve got to have something from our front court, and our scorers have to score. There just isn’t much room for error.”
The Friars had nothing much inside, or outside, in the opening 20 minutes. With Cincinnati holding a 15-13 lead and 12:31 to play in the first half, the Bearcats ripped off seven unanswered points, with 6-9 senior Yancy Gates and 6-8 Justin Jackson doing the damage inside. After PC pulled back within six points with 6:35 to go, the outside game began to fall as well, with leading scorer Sean Kilpatrick and freshman Jeremiah Davis hitting threes.
UC led 41-25 at the break, shooting 53% from the floor and committing just two turnovers. An 18-13 edge in rebounding, with a 26-12 advantage in scoring in the paint were decisive factors.
In the second half, the margin grew to 24 points with Cincinnati leading 54-30 and 14:27 to play, when the Friars finally showed a spark. Fueled by Vincent Council’s offense, along with some pressure defense, PC went on a 15-2 run to pull within 11 and 11:13 still to play. At one point Council (who scored a career-high tying 29 points) connected on three straight three point field goals, and four out of five attempted. Helped by a hot hand from LaDontae Henton (24 points, nine rebounds) the Friars pulled even closer – to within seven points at 66-59 with 4:22 remaining.
Cincinnati responded with six unanswered points at this stage, hitting key free throws down the stretch and continuing their dominance inside. PC couldn’t close the gap any further. Superior depth on the Bearcats’ bench, coupled with little to no offense on the Friars’ side, ultimately decided this one – letdown or no letdown.
Council scored 21 of his career-high tying 29 points in the second half, and connected on 4 of 7 threes along the way…only four players scored for the Friars, with Henton and Council combining for 53 of the 66 points scored. Gerard Coleman scored 11 (10 in the second half) and Bilal Dixon managed two. That was it…Bryce Cotton’s shooting woes continued for the second straight game, missing all seven of his field goal attempts (0-6 on threes). Cotton is now just 2 for his last 17 from the floor over the last two games…Cotton and Coleman are a combined 6-36 shooting the past two games…depth was a big key to Cincinnati’s ultimate success, playing 10 players with nine of them scoring…Kilpatrick led the Bearcats with 22 points, while Gates scored 16 and hauled in nine rebounds as the only two players to reach double figures…UC held a 44-26 edge on the rebounding side (second worst margin of the season), as PC mainly played Ron Giplaye and Brice Kofane in the second half inside. Dixon (2 points, 0 rebounds) and Kadeem Batts (0 points, 2 rebounds) stayed on the bench…22 of UC’s 28 field goals were scored in the paint, as the Bearcats ended up with a 44-28 scoring advantage inside…second chance points were a killer, too. Bearcats 20, Friars 4 in that department…the win evens the all time series between the schools at 4-4…UC is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Bearcats winning the second of back-to-back national titles in 1961-62…Cincinnati improves to 18-8 on the season, 8-5 in the Big East, while the Friars fall to 13-14 overall, 2-12 in the league…a group of approximately 30 boosters and athletic department personnel accompanied the team on the charter flight to and from Cincinnati…a few more of the opponents for next season’s Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic are known. The Friars are scheduled to be in San Juan with Oklahoma State, Xavier, Tennessee, North Carolina State, Southern Mississippi, Penn State and Akron…former Friar head coach Tim Welsh was on the national television broadcast (ESPNU) providing game analysis for the first time since his dismissal four years ago. Sitting two seats to his right at the TV table was the man who fired him, athletic director Bob Driscoll…PC next faces nationally-ranked Georgetown at the Dunk Saturday night at 7:00 pm (pre-game 6:15 on 103.7 WEEI-FM and friars.com)…the Friars lost a hard-fought 49-40 decision to the Hoyas in Washington, DC on New Years’ Eve…