Cincinnati Prevails In Overtime

West Virginia came to Cincinnati looking for their first conference road win. They'll leave the Queen City still searching after jumping out to a commanding first half lead, only to fizzle down the stretch like a freshly opened can of soda. The Bearcats seized control in the second half, and blew the doors off of the Mountaineers in overtime for a 96-83 victory.

Early in the game, the Mountaineers looked , as they jumped out to a 24-7 lead. The Bearcats, in no hurry to just give up their home court, clawed back into the game until the Mountaineers again went on a run to close the first half. The half was capped by Frank Young's 40-foot bank shot at the horn, giving West Virginia a 43-31 lead heading into the locker room.

The second half was a completely different story, as the Bearcats came out looking to set the tone and defend their home turf. The Mountaineers maintained a steady lead for the first ten minutes of the half, but the Bearcats slowly chipped away. John Williamson's jumper in the lane tied the game at 58, and the Bearcats took control on an alley-oop dunk by forward Cedric McGowan off of a half-court pass from point guard Jamual Warren. The Bearcats had the crowd behind them and momentum in their corner, but couldn't pull ahead by more than five points as the Mountaineers kept hanging around.

Alex Ruoff's three-pointer with under a minute to play gave West Virginia the lead back for the first time since the 10:54 mark when the score was 58-56. The Bearcats advanced the ball to half court and called timeout to draw up a play. Out of the timeout, Bearcat big man Marcus Sikes got an open jumper from the corner, but the shot was off the mark. Forward John Williamson corralled the rebound, missed the putback, and then was called for traveling before he could get another shot off. Things looked to be golden for the Blue and Gold when freshman forward Da'Sean Butler was fouled on the inbounds pass, sending him to the line for a pair of shots. Butler, though, was able to convert only one of his two free throw attempts

Given another opportunity, the Bearcats converted. Point guard Jamual Warren hit a runner in the lane, knotting the score at 75. West Virginia tried to counter, but the ball slipped out of the hands of senior forward Frank Young and his errant shot sailed over the rim. With four-tenths of a second left, Sikes hauled the ball downcourt, but the pass was broken up by Mountaineer center Rob Summers. Cincinnati's first year head coach, Mick Cronin, charged after official Bernard Clinton in a dead sprint and very well could have been ejected for receiving his second technical foul of the game after receiving a T in the first half.

Official Bill Laubenstein and Bearcat associate head coach Larry Davis had to corral Cronin back to the bench. Cronin, who continued to bark at Clinton and then Laubenstein, looked like a three-year old being dragged away from the sandbox after somebody took his favorite toy. Though his actions were childish and uncalled for, they seemed to fire up his team for overtime.

With overtime on the horizon, both teams were saddled with foul trouble. West Virginia's Joe Alexander had fouled out late in the second half, and Summers picked up his fourth just moments into the extra frame. Overtime was decidedly in favor of the home team as the Cats outscored West Virginia 20-8 in the final five minutes.

What makes Cincinnati's performance in overtime more impressive is the fact that the Mountaineers actually had five more shot attempts from the field. The Bearcats were 4-5 from the field, while West Virginia was just 2-11. Of West Virginia's 11 field goal attempts, 10 came from three-point range including both makes. Cronin's constant griping to the officials, while annoying and way overdone, was very effective. His team shot 41 free throws on the game, making 29. The home team was 12-13 from the charity stripe in overtime.

Guard Marvin Gentry, who poured in a game-high 32 points on 9-14 shooting, led five Bearcats in double figures. Williamson recorded a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds. As a team, the Bearcats out-rebounded West Virginia 44-32. The Mountaineers actually had a 19-12 advantage on the boards at halftime. The most telling statistic was turnovers. In 45 minutes, the Bearcats turned it over just six times. By comparison, West Virginia had 12 turnovers.

"I think the key to this game is that Cincinnati just had great efficiency on offense," said Beilein after the game. "That really worried me going into the game. They were a low turnover team with a lot of new guys. We could not get their guards to turn it over today.

"Their guards were the key today. They did just a terrific job. They just played intelligent, and played to win."

Sophomore guard Alex Ruoff led the Mountaineers with 21 points and six assists. He was joined in double figures by Butler (14 points, eight rebounds), and Young (13 points, six rebounds).

The Mountaineers return to action on Wednesday night against Marshall at the Charleston Civic Center. That game is sold out, and will tip at 8:00 PM.

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