The Cincinnati Bearcats look one step closer to being a lock for their second straight NCAA tournament appearance after a 60-56 win against Big East rivals Louisville in front of a sellout crowd at Fifth Third Arena Thursday night.
UC entered the game as the second-best 3-point shooting team by percentage – 36 percent – and the most 3-pointers made with 203 on the year. This theme continued as the ‘Cats went 11-27 from behind the arc including eight in the first half. Cashmere Wright fueled the 3-point barrage as he nailed a career-best, six long balls. Louisville on the other hand struggled mightily from behind the arc finishing the game 1-14.
UC’s ability to make the long ball made up for an otherwise disappointing night from the field. The Bearcats made only eight 2-point field goals at a miserable 26 percent clip. Louisville didn’t shoot much better; leading scorer Kyle Kuric managed only 4 points, all from the free-throw line.
Big man Gorgui Dieng finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds for the Cardinals. Peyton Siva added 14 points and 4 assists in the Louisville loss. Louisville fell to 9-6 in the Big East while UC improved to 10-5. Both teams have three conference games remaining.
After last night's win over No. 17 Louisville, UC sits in a fourth-place tie with Georgetown and South Florida, who share 10-5 records, and UC holds the tiebreaker against Georgetown. The top four seeds in the conference tournament will received double byes and an automatic bid into the quarterfinals. The Bearcats have games remaining at USF and Villanova — a team they beat once already — and Senior Night when Marquette comes to town. In all likelihood the fourth seed will be a fight between UC and Georgetown. The Hoyas have the tougher schedule as they welcome Villanova and Notre Dame, which has won nine straight, while they travel to Marquette to end the schedule.
Only weeks away from Selection Sunday, the Bearcats should guaranteed a spot in the NCAA Tournament with another win in the last three games. Xavier, on the other hand, needs to win out and have some results go their way if they want to make the Big Dance.
The Musketeers lost at Massachusetts on Tuesday night and are three games back of the conference lead with three games remaining. League leaders Temple are not going to lose three games, so Xavier will have to make a push for the conference tournament title or hope the selection committee looks upon them favorably.
A sloppy evening from the Muskies combined with a outstanding performance by Massachusetts’ guard Chaz Williams led to an easy win for the Minutemen. Xavier turned the ball over 20 times and could not compensate for the career-high 29 points from Williams, including six 3-pointers. Xavier had four players score double-digits and Dez Wells led the way with 19 points, but Wells also led Xavier with 6 turnovers.
The Musketeers' remaining schedule includes two sub .500 teams in Charlotte and Richmond and a trip to second-place Saint Louis — which beat Xavier by five at the Cintas Center back on Jan. 25.