Villanova falls to Cincinnati
CINCINNATI - Earlier Tuesday, the Big East standings showed Cincinnati and Villanova tied for ninth place with 6-5 records, odd considering the Bearcats have been nationally ranked this season for all but two weeks and the Wildcats haven't found their way into the Top 25.
The Bearcats might have had that in mind Tuesday night. They got in the grille of the Wildcats defensively from the opening minutes and never let up. That defense, along with 12 three-point baskets, enabled them to roll to a 68-50 victory over Villanova at the Fifth Third Arena.
After posting back-to-back wins over Big East cellar-dwellers DePaul and South Florida, the Wildcats (15-10, 6-6 Big East) stepped up in class before a crowd of 9,534 and were outplayed, particularly in the second half when the Bearcats (19-6, 7-5) squeezed the defensive clamps onto 'Nova's half-court offense.
"Their defense was outstanding," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "Their guards dominated us. I give their veteran guards a lot of credit for the team defense by them. We just had no answer for their guards."
From a 32-29 halftime lead, Cincinnati forced six turnovers on Villanova's first 12 possessions of the second half and increased its lead to 44-33 with 12 minutes, 59 seconds remaining with the help of Sean Kilpatrick's three-point play.
Villanova got as close as 10 points, 47-37, on Darrun Hilliard's layup but the Bearcats spurted again with a 15-4 run. All five of their baskets in this stretch came on three-pointers, two by Kilpatrick, who tied teammate Jaquon Parker for game-high scoring honors with 19 points.
The run ended with Parker's three-ball that gave Cincinnati its largest lead, 59-41, with 5:07 to play. The Wildcats never got closer than 13 after that.
JayVaughn Pinkston led Villanova with 12 points and Mouphtaou Yarou added 10. The visitors shot 42.6 percent and hit just three of 13 three-point tries. They finished with 19 turnovers, leading to 21 Cincinnati points.
The Bearcats knocked down six three-point baskets in the first half, all but one coming in the final eight minutes. The Wildcats connected on 52.2 percent of their field-goal tries but committed seven turnovers in the half.
Villanova put together a highlight-reel segment on its final possession. Ryan Arcidiacono fell to the court about 25 feet from the basket. From his backside, he threw a pass over his head to Pinkston in the lane, and Pinkston's shot went in at the buzzer.
With the game tied at 12, Cincinnati got three-pointers from three different players, with the final one, by Jermaine Sanders, giving the Bearcats a 21-14 lead with 5:20 left.
Contact Joe Juliano at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @joejulesinq