Bearcats Fall in Clash of Titans

The Cincinnati Bearcats fell in a clash of Big East titans to the Pittsburgh Panthers 74-71 on Monday Night at Fifth Third Arena.

The Bearcats fought hard cutting the game to 3 or fewer several times in the second half but could never get over the hump as the fell to their Big East rival. Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon may have said it best when he said "nobody lost this game, this was a well played game, teams had to make plays throughout and both teams did."

The Panthers were led by Gilbert Brown and Ashton Gibbs who combined for 36 points on the night. Gibbs who is eleventh in the Big East in scoring at 17.4 points per game scored 19 on the night, including three big free throws in the last ten seconds on the night. Brown the redshirt junior really took over in the second half scoring 13 points. About Brown, Bearcats coach Mick Cronin said "Gilbert Brown made five second half baskets that broke our back."

Pittsburgh free throw shooting was the other key to the game as the Panthers made 20 of 27 and Cincinnati only attempted eleven, going eight of eleven on the night. The huge difference in the free throw shooting column is staggering for a team playing on the road. Sophomore Yancy Gates said this about the disparate on the line, "You can't let the visiting team shoot more free throws then you in your own gym."

Cincinnati was led by Deonta Vaughn, Lance Stephenson, and Gates who combined to score 48 of the teams 71 points. Senior Deonta Vaughn who played 34 minutes on the night led all Bearcats with 17 points, 14 of those came in the second half including seven points in the last twenty seconds, but coach Mick Cronin chose to go with Larry Davis to take the final shot who missed from half court as the buzzer expired for the hard fought loss.

Stephenson scored 15 points on the night in 32 minutes of action, 13 of which came in the first half. Jamie Dixon said this about what Pitt did differently in the second half to slow down Stephenson, "I thought he made three real tough shots in the first half….. We had better awareness of him in second half." Gates had a big night scoring 16 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in 34 minutes of action. I asked Gates about his frustrating level about not getting touches in the second half he only had a few touches that weren't off his three offensive rebounds and he said "It's not frustrating…. You just try to get more rebounds. You try to do something else you weren't doing in the first half."

Cincinnati shot 49 percent from the field against the Big East number one defense, but tonight the Bearcats struggles came on the defensive end of the floor, usually a big strength of this team. There were 23 defensive possessions in the second half in which Cincinnati was within three points and in 16 of those possessions Pitt scored at least on point at the free throw line. About the in ability to get stops at key times Mick Cronin said "We got behind and we had to play Deonta, Lance, and Yancy too many minutes….. We weren't able to get enough stops to win. I really think for us to be the team we need to be defensively we need to play our bench a little more than we did tonight so were not breaking down, a lot of our breakdowns were out of fatigue and came from playing those guys to many minutes."

About how this team is progressing sitting at 10-4 and state of the program the Mick Cronin is in the process of rebuilding, Jamie Dixon had this to say, "There a good team… there record indicates there good by the wins they have had. You can see the job Mick has done, I remember playing them four years ago and now they have a top program in the Big East. They get better every year and that's the sign of building a good program. About what this team needs to improve on for this season Mick Cronin had this to say "Our biggest problem as a team…..When were in a high level game, you're not going to score every time. You've got to get some stops, we trade, we trade, we trade, and then we miss and they score we can't compound the problem taking a tough shot and go down and give up a layup…. We have stretches were the other team scores three consecutive times… It is part of growing up and trying to become a team. You can't allow one possession to effect the next possession. We have too many two minute stretches if we don't score it effects our defense…. Some of our breakdowns are immaturity."

On Wednesday night Cincinnati will attempt to bounce back as they take on Cal-State Bakersfield at Fifth Third Arena who is currently 2-11.

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