Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cincinnati 69 Rutgers 68

(AP/Henny Ray Abrams)

Lance Stephenson saved the day for the Cincinnati Bearcats, as they were able to take home a round 1 win in the Big East tournament Tuesday night. Stephenson netted the game winning free throw with 1.8 seconds left following a furious Rutgers rally. Cincinnati plays the Louisville Cardinals tonight at 9:30ish, 20 minutes after the 7 pm game ends. Cincinnati was without Rashad Bishop, who was suspended for the Big East tournament due to conduct detrimental to the team. It's a shame. Hopefully Rashad realizes the error of his ways and plays in the next tournament UC is in. 

The game started with a 5 minute stalemate after the fireworks of Seton Hall and Providence. We had a 5-5 tie after a Gates put back, an NBA range 3 from Deonta Vaughn, Jonathan Mitchell scoring inside and a James Beatty triple. Hamady Ndiaye dominated the paint, as he had 4 blocks in the first 6 minutes, setting the Rutgers career record. Congratulations to Hamady. After the 4th block, he was fouled on the other end by his best friend Ibrahima Thomas and made 1 free throw. Gates followed by making 1 of 2, but the teams didn't make a field goal until the 13 minute mark when Mike Rosario hit a 3. That was followed by a Mitchell 3 and a 12-6 lead. Cincinnati scored 4 quick on a Cashmere Wright jumper, and on a Gates dunk from Wright when Rutgers turned the ball over after Dane Miller dribbled the ball off Rosario trying to break UC pressure. Rutgers scored 6 of the next 8 on threes by Rosario and Beatty around a Darnell Wilks jumper. But UC went on a 9-0 run to take a 22-18 lead off a Wright jumper, a Wilks lay up around a defender from Stephenson, a Parker 3 from passes from Lance and Wilks, and a traditional 3 point play by Cashmere Wright. The Scarlet Knights tied it on a Ndiaye dunk and a Coburn lay up. Rutgers and Cincinnati would play tight the rest of the half. UC scored 4 on a Wilks dunk back, and a Stephenson baseline jumper. RU got a Mitchell 3. UC got a Toyloy bucket off a drop off from Vaughn, answered by 2 Rosario free throws. A Darnell Wilks 3 to give UC a 4 point lead was met by a goaltend by Stephenson on a Coburn lay up off a great outlet pass by Rosario, and another Ndiaye dunk off a zone break. Rutgers took the lead into intermission after Cash had a lay up blocked, and with 1.8 seconds left, Coburn was fouled and made 1 of 2 for a 32-31 Rutgers lead. 

Rutgers shot 50% for the first half on 11-22 shooting. They were 6-12 from 3 and 4-8 from the foul line. The Knights grabbed 15 rebounds, 2 offensive and had 8 assists. They were lead by Mike Rosario 10, Jonathan Mitchell 8-5, James Beatty 6, Hamady Ndiaye 5-4-2, or 4 blocks, and Mike Coburn 3-2 assists. Cincinnati shot 35% on 13-37 shooting, were 3-8 from deep and 2-3 from the foul line. The Cats grabbed 19 rebounds, 9 offensive. They were lead by Darnell Wilks 9-3, Cashmere Wright 7-2 assists, Yancy Gates 5, Deonta Vaughn 3, Jaquon Parker 3, Lance Stephenson 2-6-3 assists, and Steve Toyloy 2.

Deonta Vaughn started the second half with a 3 pointer to put UC back in front, but it was answered by 3 Ndiaye free throws. We stayed tied until the under 16 media break, but there was lots of scoring. Gates scored on a lob from Thomas on a nice press break by Vaughn, Rosario and Jaquon Parker traded 3s, Dane Miller made 1 free throw, followed by Parker making 2 free throws, only for Jonathan Mitchell to score a basket with a foul and covert the free throw. The Knights took advantage of Cashmere Wright falling asleep at the wheel when they got an open 3 from Rosario after a high pass. It looked like the ball was going out of bounds, and Cash turned and ran, but it didn't. UC crashed the glass hard all night, as Toyloy scored on a tip in of a Thomas miss, but Coburn went right to the rim in transition to score. The 46-43 Rutgers advantage would hold through the under 12 timeout, and grow after on a Coburn long 2. It was at this point, Lance Stephenson started taking over. Stephenson scored on a nice move inside and off a tip in, around a Mitchell 2. UC was in full bomb threes mode here, but Rutgers couldn't really capitalize much. Dante Rosario got to the rim by splitting the defense, but Cash found Gates for an interior shot to start a UC run. Ibrahima Thomas scored off a turn around jumper to pull UC to within 1, 52-51. At the 7:25 mark, Lance Stephenson pulled down a rebound, went on a one man fast break, scored a lay up, was fouled, and made the free throw. On the inbound, Stephenson stole the errant pass, drove to the rim and scored with a foul. And again he made the free throw to put UC up 5. Austin Johnson scored his only 2 on a jump shot off a ball screen, a play Rutgers ran all night. But, Jaquon Parker had a personal 5-0 run by picking up a loose ball off a Cincinnati shot attempt, and by drilling a 3. That 11-2 run put UC up 62-54 with 3:31 left. Rosario and Rutgers would come back. Rosario got the line and made 1 of 2. Gates wiped that out by making 1 of 2 for UC. But, Gates would miss an easy put back on the next UC possession, allowing Mitchell to get the rebound and hit Rosario with a beautiful baseball pass, drawing a foul on his lay up attempt. He made both. Rutgers fouled Parker after the inbound, but Jaquon missed the front end of a 1-1. Rutgers missed 2 wide open three chances by Mitchell and Rosario though. But, they hung tough and drew a 5 second closely guarded call on Deonta. Beatty immediately went to the rim and the lead was 63-59 with 54.7 to go. UC broke the Rutgers press, and when Mitchell fell down, Vaughn hit Thomas for a huge lay up. Rosario made a quick lay up for Rutgers, who called their last timeout with 38.7. Vaughn got fouled on the inbound, and made both, but UC fouled Coburn as he drove, and he made both keeping the lead at 4. With 2 timeouts left, Jaquon Parker, who played great, made a stupid play by not calling timeout when he couldn't get the ball in, had the ball slip out of his hands and onto the floor, where Mitchell dove on it and was fouled by Vaughn. Mitchell made both and with 29 seconds left, it was a 2 point game. UC called 2 timeouts in a row to get a good inbound play, and they did as Vaughn was fouled with 23 to go. He missed the first free throw, and made the second. Rutgers took the inbound pass up in a hurry, and Dante Rosario hit a twisting 3 as he was trying to jump into Larry Davis for a foul. With visions of St John's and the last trip to the Garden dancing in UC fans heads, Lance Stephenson gave us visions of UConn. Lance took the ball up court, and drove hard to the rim, drawing a foul. He calmly drilled the first before Mick Cronin told him to miss the second. He did, and Rutgers three quarter court heave was short and UC survived and advanced.

Cincinnati shot 26-69 37.7%, 6-20 from deep and 11-18 at the stripe. They gathered 44 rebounds, 19 offensive. UC was lead by Stephenson 13-9-5 assists, Parker, who started in place of Bishop, 13-5, Gates 10-5, Vaughn 9, Wilks 9, Wright 7-4-3 assists, Thomas 4-13, and Toyloy 4. What a beast Ibrahima Thomas has been on the boards lately. Him and Lance Stephenson are playing great, and give a lot of hope for improvement next season. Rutgers was 22-51 43%, 9-24, 15-23 at the stripe, with 28 rebounds, 4 offensive. They had 16 assists. Rosario had 26, Mitchell 15-10, Coburn 9, Ndiaye 7-8-5 blocks, Johnson 2, and lastly but not least, Miller 1-5-8 assists. 

This was a big win. The team hadn't pulled out a close game late in a long, long time, and this was important. It's on to bigger and better things, and those things are the Louisville Cardinals. It's tournament basketball, enjoy it friends. 

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