Michelle Jones led UC (15-14) in scoring with 17 points, plus added six rebounds. Carla Jacobs and Emy Ogide each added 11 points. Jacobs was one assist shy of reaching her second career double-double. Shelly Bellman had a game-high 10 rebounds.
The result may be the same as last season, but the way the teams got there is a big difference. The Bearcats have grown a lot in their two seasons in the BIG EAST. Last year UC fell behind early and never fully recovered, ultimately falling 77-62. This time around Cincinnati got into some trouble but fought back.
"I'm really proud of our kids. We fought back from a little bit of a hole that we were in," said UC head coach Laurie Pirtle. "We really had a lot of momentum and we were playing with a lot of trust in each other."
The Bearcats held a 42-39 lead at the half despite struggling at the start when they got into early foul trouble and fell behind by 13 points with 7:38 remaining in the period. That's when UC turned it on. In the final 6:30 the Bearcats outscored Pitt 23-6, which included an 8-0 and a 9-0 run. Cincinnati hit seven of its last eight shots to close out the half.
Bellman started the rally by hitting a trey to end a three-minute-plus scoring drought. Jacobs got in on the action and drained a 3-pointer at the 2:37 mark to pull UC within two, 36-34. Stephanie Stevens stole the ball and dished off to Emy Ogide who scored the bucket and was fouled. Ogide, who shot 4-of-4 from the field and 3-of-3 from the free throw line, converted the extra point to put the Bearcats ahead for the first time in the game with 2:12 to play. UC pulled ahead by six points, but Pitt's Ashleigh Braxton killed the Bearcats' momentum, drilling a trifecta at the buzzer to pull the Panthers within three.
The second half was a back-and-forth battle that saw 11 ties and 12 lead changes. The Bearcats owned their last lead on an Ogide lay up with 5:35 to play. The 2007 BIG EAST Most Improved Player of the Year Shavonte Zellous scored six of her team's eight points in the final three minutes to help the Panthers pull away. She finished with a game-high 28 points.
"The kids were really talking and that infectious, electric atmosphere was going on, but we just got tight in the last few minutes," said Pirtle. "We did some things that made it a little bit more deliberate and caused a disadvantage for us."