Big East Tournament: Cincinnati Bearcats Advance After Knocking Off Providence

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bearcats came out determined in their first Big East Tournament game, managing to advance after knocking off the Providence Friars with a 61-44 victory.

It wasn’t the prettiest contest, but that appears to be the early theme in this year’s conference tournament. The Bearcats managed to shoot 40 percent from the field in the game, thanks to a late rally that bumped the number up from in the mid-30s where it was most of the contest. The Friars shot a horrid 28.1 percent from the floor, which all but explains why their NCAA Tournament hopes have gone down the drain.

With the win, Cincinnati managed to avenge its loss to Providence from Feb. 6 where it fell 54-50. Kadeem Batts went off for 25 points in that contest, but the Bearcats were better prepared this time around, holding the talented Friars post player to only 14 points in tournament action.

Sean Kilpatrick led the way offensively with 17 points to go along with four rebounds, while his Bearcat teammate JaQuon Parker wasn’t too far behind, finishing with a double-double of 15 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.

Along with the two scorers, the big story was the defense inside delivered by center Cheikh Mbodj. Cincinnati had only three blocks in its first meeting with Providence, and Mbodj appeared determined to improve that number all on his own. The center recorded five of the team’s seven blocks in the game to go along with eight points and seven rebounds.

After beginning the year 12-0, the Bearcats were inconsistent throughout conference play, and limped into the Big East Tournament after losing six of their final nine games. However, the team’s scrappy defense against Providence proved Cincinnati can’t be counted out in any tournament game as the Bearcats finished with the seventh-best team rebounding percentage in the nation.

Combine their rebounding percentage with the Big East’s third-best shot blocker, Mbodj, and point guard Cashmere Wright, who finished eighth in the conference in steals, the Bearcats possess two quality defenders at the most important positions.

Cincinnati will now advance to face the Georgetown Hoyas and attempt to avenge another loss from league play in tournament action. The Hoyas defeated the Bearcats 62-55 on Feb. 15, thanks to 17 points from Markel Starks and 16 points from Otto Porter Jr.

A win could go a long way in improving Cincinnati’s NCAA Tournament seed, but it’ll need to find a way to slow down Georgetown’s two leading scorers for any hope of pulling off the upset.

Given the defense displayed against Providence, it’s not unlikely the Bearcats can pull off the upset. However, knocking off the tournament’s top seed is always easier said than done.

Michael covers ACC and Big East basketball along with the NBA and NHL for Rant Sports, you can follow him on Twitter @MichaelxRoberts

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