Men's Basketball

Cincinnati 65, West Virginia 61

By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
February 26, 2009

Cincinnati 65, West Virginia 61
Fifth Third arena
Cincinnati, ohio
Wst Virginia 33 28 61
Cincinnati 32 33 65
Stat Comparison
FG Made-Att 21-63 25-53
FG Percentage 33.3% 47.2%
3P Made-Att 4-21 6-20
3P Percentage 19.0% 30.0%
FT Made-Att 15-18 9-21
FT Percentage 83.3% 42.9%
Rebounds 37 37
Turnovers 9 12
Top WVU Players
Top Scorer
Top Rebounder
Alex Ruoff
18 Points
Devin Ebanks
14 Rebounds 

West Virginia simply did not have an answer for freshman center Yancy Gates, who scored a career-high 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to ruin Bob Huggins’ Cincinnati homecoming with a 65-61 Bearcat victory Thursday night.

Before the game, Cincinnati played a brief video tribute to Huggins, who led the Bearcats to 14 NCAA Tournament appearances, including a trip to the Final Four in 1992.

Cincinnati (18-10, 8-7) got a much-needed victory by holding West Virginia to just 33.3 percent shooting. The Mountaineers were 4 of 21 from 3-point range and their two top scorers – Da’Sean Butler and Alex Ruoff – made a combined 7 of 26 from the field.

Ruoff finished with 18 points with 10 of those 18 coming from the free throw line.

Including last year’s miserable 10-of-50 shooting performance in Morgantown, the Mountaineers have made just 27.4 percent (31 of 113) of their field goal tries against the Bearcats the last two games.

“You’ve got to make shots,” said Huggins. “I thought maybe we had turned the corner when we made some shots against Rutgers. But as I told them, 100 percent of the shots that don’t go above the rim don’t go in.”

In the first half, West Virginia got its biggest lead of the game, 27-19, when Huggins switched to a 1-3-1 zone defense.

“We couldn’t guard Yancy Gates,” Huggins said of his decision to switch from half-court man to the 1-3-1. “We had no chance to guard Yancy Gates which puzzles me because we guarded DeJuan Blair, we guarded Luke Harangody and we guarded Hasheem Thabeet.”

A five-minute scoreless stretch by the Mountaineers allowed Cincinnati to retake the lead, 28-27.

A technical foul called on Cincinnati’s Steve Toyloy for throwing an elbow led to a pair of Ruoff free throws to give West Virginia a 31-30 lead, and the Mountaineers led at halftime 33-32.

After a Butler layup made it 35-32 to begin the second half, WVU missed 17 of its next 19 shots and that led a 19-7 Bearcat run and a nine-point lead.

John Flowers finally snapped WVU’s 0-for-9 streak with a 3 to pull West Virginia to within six with 8:09 remaining.

A pair of Devin Ebanks free throws and a dunk reduced the deficit to three, 57-54, forcing Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin to call timeout. A Wellington Smith layup with 2:15 to go and then two free throws by Ruoff tied the game at 60 with 1:45 left.

Trailing 63-61, Ruoff missed an opportunity to give West Virginia the lead with 19 seconds left when he missed an open 3. Free throws by Vaughn and Yates iced the game for Cincinnati.

“Every time they needed a basket they threw the ball to Yates,” said Huggins. “He was just bigger, stronger and tougher than us.”

Ebanks scored 12 points and grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds, while Kevin Jones came off the bench to contribute 12 points and five boards.

“All they tried to do was jam the lane and not let us get easy ones,” said Huggins.

The loss drops West Virginia (19-9, 8-7) from sixth to ninth place in the conference standings because Cincinnati and Syracuse presently both own the tiebreakers over the Mountaineers.

WVU has three remaining Big East games at South Florida on Sunday and then home games against DePaul and Louisville.

“We’ve got to get ready for practice tomorrow and get ready for South Florida,” Huggins said. “We can’t let one loss turn into two.”

Cincinnati has road games left at Syracuse and South Florida before wrapping up the regular season at home against Seton Hall.

Syracuse must still play Cincinnati and Rutgers at home before finishing the regular season on the road at Marquette.

Providence, a ½ game ahead of Syracuse, Cincinnati and West Virginia in the standings, wraps up the regular season with a pair of road games at Rutgers and Villanova.