In front of 13,176 fans inside Fifth Third Arena, saw a dramatic ending between the top two teams in the American Athletic Conference.
Senior guard Sean Kilpatrick did just about everything to rally Cincinnati (24-4, 13-2) on a historic day which he eclipsed 2,000 career points and scored 22 of his 28 points in the second half. He had to work harder to get those points though.
The loss ended the Bearcats 19 game home winning streak.
“That was a heck of a game, better described as a blood bath.” Head Coach Mick Cronin said. ” It wasn’t our toughest loss. The toughest are in the NCAA tournament, because that ends your season.”
The Cardinals trailed by one, but Montrell Harrell scored to put them ahead 56-55, with 26.3 seconds left. In that moment, you foul him, he’s a 37 percent foul shooter for goodness sake.
“We had a three-point lead and gave up two lay ups, Cronin said. “That was our watershed moment.”
Freshman guard Troy Caupain hit two clutch free throws to put Cincinnati ahead with 11 seconds left, but russdiclous happened.
Both offenses started slowly, that’s as nice that I’ll put it.
The Bearcats were scoreless for an eternity. The team at the six-minute mark in the first half, were 3 for 23 from the field.
Louisville jumped out to a 21-9 lead, and were on a 13-0 run.
Junior forward Jermaine Sanders sparked a 7-0 run by the Bearcats with a big three pointer to pull within five points remarkably late in the first half.
Cincinnati, which shot a horrid 19.4 percent in the first half, was fortunate to trail by three at halftime.
“A minor miracle, Cronin said. “I’ love our guys for how hard they play. We just didn’t play well today. SK’s points and Titus Rubels’ rebounding were the reason we were in the game.”
Two straight baskets by Kilpatrick gave Cincinnati a 30-27 lead with 14 minutes left.
The Cardinals answered with a 9-0 run to jump back ahead.
Cincinnati railed in the second half behind Kilpatrick, who hit three straight free throws to put the Bearcats up, 53-51 with 1:40 left.
Then the officials happened.
Saturday’s game was played physically throughout, but the officials were liberal with the whistles. Case in point: Bearcats guard Shaq Thomas was struck on the wrist and briefly left the game in the first half, but of course no foul was called. I won’t even get into the 24 hour review, which stopped Cincinnati’s 11-0 run momentum late in the game.
“I have no comment on officiating.” Cronin said. “Saying that, I don’t mean that officiating lost us the game. It didn’t, we had our chances.”
Not the end of the world Bearcat fans, this loss though tightens up the conference race with three left to play.
Next three: @UCONN (3/1), vs Memphis (SENIOR NIGHT, 3/6), @Rutgers (3/8).