Cashmere Wright scored 18 points, Sean Kilpatrick added 16 and No. 14 Cincinnati surged past No. 24 Pittsburgh 70-61 on Monday.
The Bearcats (13-1, 1-0 Big East) bounced back from a loss to New Mexico last Thursday by dominating the Panthers over the final 20 minutes. Cincinnati trailed by as much as eight early but used a 14-2 run midway through the second half to take control.
Talib Zanna led Pitt (12-2, 0-1) with 16 points and Lamar Patterson had 13 points, four rebounds and four assists but the Panthers missed all 10 of their 3-point attempts as their eight-game winning streak ended with a thud.
Pitt had a chance to get within a point with 1:27 to play, but Tray Woodall missed the front end of a one-and-one and Cincinnati made its free throws the rest of the way.
Cincinnati outrebounded the Panthers 37-32, including a pair of huge offensive boards with around 3 minutes left that allowed the Bearcats to hold onto the ball for more than a minute. Cincinnati turned the reprieves into a David Nyarsuk dunk that pushed their advantage to 62-55.
Pitt, however, wasn't quite done. Zanna hit a layup and was fouled. He missed the ensuing free throw but Patterson slipped into the lane for the stickback to get Pitt within three. The Bearcats turned it over on the inbounds and Woodall went to the line after getting tackled by Cincinnati's Cheikh Mbodj.
Woodall, who had issues with foul trouble in the first half and the physical play by the Bearcats in the second, clanged his free throw and Kilpatrick grabbed the board. Cincinnati went 8 of 10 at the line over the final 70 seconds to put it away.
It wasn't quite the start to their final Big East season the Panthers envisioned. Pitt was hoping to restore some of its luster after a disappointing 2011-12 that saw them miss the NCAA tournament.
It didn't happen against the Bearcats, who are sticking around the new-look Big East and performed like a team that expects to be in the thick of things well into March.
The Panthers, facing their first real test since a loss to Michigan in New York the day before Thanksgiving, didn't need much time to get up to speed. Pitt never trailed during a sometimes ugly first half that will likely serve as a preview of the two-month grind that awaits in conference play.
Cincinnati, however, hung around despite missing 10 of its first 11 shots thanks to a defense that kept getting in passing lanes and getting under the Panthers' skin. Pitt turned it over seven times in the first half, or just two less than the disciplined Panthers had been averaging over the course of an entire game.
Pitt used a late 8-0 burst to take a 34-26 lead into the break, but the momentum evaporated early in the second as the Bearcats clamped down and finally found a rhythm behind Parker and Wright.
Cincinnati took its first lead, 45-43, on a traditional three-point play by Titus Rubles with 10:14 to go. Kilpatrick followed with a couple of free throws and Wright added a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Nyarsuk followed with a putback and then capped the run with an awkward - if effective - bank shot that put the Bearcats up 54-45.
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