Posted March 11, 2012 on AP on Fox
Cincinnati made it to the Big East championship game from the 3-point line and lost it there, too. And after shooting 21 percent from beyond the arc in a 50-44 loss to familiar foe Louisville on Saturday night, the Bearcats acknowledged they came in overconfident. ''They just admitted it to me,'' coach Mick Cronin said. ''We just have a tendency to go to cruise control at times.'' This wasn't a good night to do that. Sean Kilpatrick and the Bearcats, making their first appearance in the tournament final at Madison Square Garden, clanged one jumper after another off the rim while digging themselves a 16-point hole in the second half. Cashmere Wright led a late rally that brought Cincinnati within 48-44 with 2:35 to play, but that was as close as it got. A second-team all-Big East selection, Kilpatrick led an early 3-point barrage that helped the fourth-seeded Bearcats (24-10) upset No. 2 Syracuse in the semifinals Friday night. The sophomore swingman, from nearby White Plains, N.Y., scored 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting from long range in that game and Cincinnati finished 10 of 22 (46 percent). This time, Kilpatrick missed his first six shots and the Bearcats started 0 for 9 from long distance before finishing 3 of 14 against Louisville's active defense. Cincinnati went 20 of 51 (39 percent) overall from the floor and was even worse at the foul line (1 for 7). ''They did a pretty good job on the outside. They played a great game and we came out sluggish the first half,'' Kilpatrick said. ''We were just too comfortable with everything that was going on.'' Kilpatrick managed only five points on 2-of-9 shooting and senior big man Yancy Gates had just nine points and six rebounds. Gates came in averaging a team-high 20.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in two tournament games. Gates said he was the one who mentioned the Bearcats were overconfident. ''I could tell the difference in the way we (were) getting ready for the game today,'' he said. ''A lot of people didn't have the same focus as we did when we first got out here, and I think because we won our first two games, they were so tough and we won them the way we did, we kind of felt like Louisville was going to come in here and kind of give it to us. But I think it was the reverse. We came in here and gave it to them because we weren't prepared to play a hard game until the second half, so we paid the price for it.'' Cincinnati will now wait to find out Sunday where it is headed for the NCAA tournament. ''It's not the ending. We've still got games to play,'' Wright said. ''We can't look back. We can't look at this game no more. It's over. We can't mope no more. We've just got to look forward and keep pushing in practice and get better.'' Chris Smith, with his brother who plays for the New York Knicks in the stands, scored 15 points for the Cardinals, who secured their sixth straight trip to the NCAA tournament. Kyle Kuric added 13 points for seventh-seeded Louisville (26-9), which was in the championship game for the third time. The Cardinals won the title in 2009 and lost to Connecticut in last year's final. The game was far from an offensive classic, but it had the sellout crowd of 20,057 at Madison Square Garden on its feet in the final minutes. ''The problem with this game is, Cincinnati and Louisville know each other too well,'' said Cardinals coach Rick Pitino, who had Cronin on his Louisville staff for two seasons from 2001-03. ''The coaches know each other, they've worked together. So you can't run one play without the coaches on the other side yelling it out. So defense has to win it.'' Wright had 16 points and JaQuon Parker added 10 for the Bearcats, who joined the Big East for the 2005-06 season, just like Louisville. They had never advanced past the conference tournament quarterfinals before this year. This was the first time in the 34 years the tournament has been held that at least one of the original seven members of the conference wasn't in the championship game. The Bearcats shot 7 of 29 (24 percent) in the first 20 minutes and managed only 14 points, four better than the tournament record for fewest in a half. They went into the break down by 10. In the semifinal win over Syracuse, Cincinnati made six of its first seven 3-point attempts. Louisville looked to be in control when Smith - whose brother, JR, joined the Knicks during the season - hit a 3 that gave the Cardinals a 44-28 lead with 8:27 to play. But Wright had nine points in a 16-4 run that brought the Bearcats within 48-44 with 2:35 to go. Russ Smith's two free throws were the only points either team scored the rest of the way. Cincinnati had three possession trailing by four points but came up empty on each of them. Tournament MVP Peyton Siva had 10 points, four rebounds and five assists for Louisville. Even though the matchup was new for a Big East championship game, it was one between old adversaries. Louisville has played Cincinnati more than any other opponent and leads the all-time series 54-41. The campuses are 104 miles apart, and this was the third different conference tournament they met in. Louisville won all three meetings in the Metro Conference tournament, while Cincinnati won all three matchups in Conference USA. They are now 1-1 in the Big East tournament. Cincinnati won the only regular-season meeting, 60-56. In that game the Bearcats went 11 for 27 from 3-point range and Louisville made only one of its 14 attempts from beyond the arc. Pitino improved to 26-9 against his former assistants and is 5-4 against Cronin.
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