Cincinnati tops Missouri, 78-63, for first win in NCAAs since 2005

March 18, 2011|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

WASHINGTON — It wasn't enough for Cincinnati to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time in six years.

The sixth-seeded Bearcats (26-8), who are rebounding from probation and an NCAA-mandated scholarship loss, wanted to return in style.

Cincinnati handled Missouri's pressure defense in a 78-63 victory that was its first in the tournament since Bob Huggins coached the team in 2005.

"I'm never going to be Bob Huggins," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. "He had a great run. I'm real comfortable being Mick Cronin."

Cincinnati faces third seed Connecticut (27-9) on Saturday in a matchup of Big East teams.

It was a game featuring a Missouri team that likes to press and run, against a Cincinnati defense that surrendered an average of just 59.2 points, tops in the Big East. The Bearcats worked in practice on breaking Missouri's anticipated traps.

"I think they prepared well for our defense," Missouri guard Phil Pressey said.

In the second half, Missouri trimmed a 15-point deficit to 54-48 when Pressey stole the ball and passed to Justin Safford for a dunk.

But the Tigers could not come that close again.

"For some reason it didn't happen tonight," Missouri coach Mike Anderson said.

Cincinnati was led by junior forward Yancy Gates with 18 points. Ricardo Ratliffe scored 13 points for the Tigers.

The physical Bearcats had 21 second-chance points that "really helped us get that separation," Cronin said.

Missouri bills its style as "the fastest 40 minutes in basketball." But the Tigers had only four points off fast breaks by halftime and eight in the game.

Cincinnati led 39-28 at the half behind nine points and four assists from sophomore guard Cashmere Wright. The Tigers shot 29 percent in the first half.

The Bearcats have topped their previous season's win total the past four years. But they lost to Notre Dame by 38 in the Big East tournament.

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

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