Tough L For The Bearcats In The 'Burgh

The Bearcats hit the road looking to pick up another win over the Panthers. But a couple of things got in their way as the Panthers handed them a loss.

The Pitt Panthers welcomed the Cincinnati Bearcats to town seeking revenge for their January 19th 62-59 loss in Fifth Third Arena. Pittsburgh had a couple of distinct advantages this time around, however. The first was starting point guard Levance Fields, who missed the two teams' previous meeting with a broken foot. The second was the home court advantage provided by Pitt's Peterson Events Center, a building in which the Panthers had lost just ten games in (while winning 94) since its opening in 2002. Wednesday night Cincinnati was unable to provide that 11th home loss for Pitt, as the Panthers (20-8, 8-7 in the Big East) won 73-67 to tie the season series between the two teams.

Cincinnati (13-14, 8-7 in the Big East) however did do their part, literally handing the win to the Panthers in the form of 17 turnovers, leading to 14 Pitt points off turnovers. Head coach Mick Cronin said Monday before his team practiced that the Bearcats would have to take care of the ball if they hoped to defeat Pitt.

Cronin also stressed that offense would need to come from people other than leading scorer Deonta Vaughn, who finished Wednesday with 24 points and eight assists. Senior John Williamson provided the second scorer Cronin was looking for, leading all scorers with a career-high-tying 27 points. Williamson also contributed by adding a team-high nine rebounds, as UC out-rebounded the Panthers 32-22.

The Bearcats kept even pace with Pitt throughout the first half of play. Vaughn drained a three on UC's opening possession and went on to score seven of Cincinnati's first nine points.

The first half of play was a physical one, especially on the glass. Every rebound came as a result of a hard fought battle underneath the basket, and UC's Adam Hrycaniuk led the way at the half with six boards. A block by Rashad Bishop would keep the score knotted up at 29 after 20 minutes of play.

The Bearcats came out strong in the second half, connecting on five of their first six field goals to go on an 11-4 run and build a 40-33 lead, the largest by any team all night, with under 16 and a half minutes remaining. Panthers Sam Young and Keith Benjamin would then go on to score the next 14 Pitt points, and the Panthers would take the lead and never relinquish it.

Young led Pitt with 20 points, two blocks, and a career-high five steals. DeJuan Blair, averaging 12 points per game, added another 18 and a game-high ten rebounds. The Panthers connected on five of their final seven free throws, as well as three of their final four field goals to keep it a two possession game down the stretch. Vaughn missed his final three shots, all within the last 15 seconds, to keep Cincinnati out of striking distance. Pitt's Gilbert Brown grabbed the final rebound of the game, ran the length of the court, and slammed home a dunk much to the liking of the "Oakland Zoo," Pitt's student section.

The Panther's win snapped a three-game losing streak, and put them into a tie with the Bearcats for 7th in the Big East standings with two games remaining for both teams before the conference tournament.

Cincinnati will return home to Fifth Third Arena for its next two games, looking to return to their winning ways and put an end to their two-game losing streak. The first of which is to be held Sunday at noon, as the Bearcats play host to the Providence Friars.

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