How can you not love that picture? Lance Stephenson and Bearcat celebrating after a hard fought victory over Louisville in the second round of the Big East tournament is the stuff March is made of. It was a great, great win for the Bearcats, and one of the reasons that basketball is so much fun. Not only is it so much fun, but it’s March, and the fun is taken to a higher level. A higher level is exactly what the Bearcats played at in the second half against Louisville Wednesday night. Let’s get right into the recap.
Things didn’t start so well for the Bearcats. Edgar Sosa scored the first 5 on a lay up and NBA 3, before Deonta Vaughn scored an NBA 3 of his own. Sosa hit a long 2 that Yancy Gates would follow with a put back. It was the first of many, many UC offensive rebounds. Terrence Jennings made a tough shot in the lane for Louisville, to be followed by an Ibrahima Thomas follow for UC. Sosa once again got to the rim, giving Louisville a 11-7 at the under 16. Darnell Wilks entered the game and knocked down a triple for the Bearcats, only to be countered when Reginald Delk scored 5 of his own off a pair of free throws and three. The 16-10 lead held to the under 12. Out of the break, Peyton Siva got a steal, raced up the floor and dropped a pass back for a Jennings jam. Cincinnati kept jacking up jump shots, namely 3s, but Wilks hit another one to cut the lead to 5. Lance Stephenson followed by getting fouled and making a pair of free throws. Preston Knowles made his only shot of the game, a 3 pointer, to push the lead back up. Stephenson was able to score on a beautiful reverse lay up, but Louisville came back with a Siva pass to Delk on the baseline for a lay up. Siva stripped Stephenson on the next trip, found Knowles who found Delk wide open for a 3 and a 26-17 Cards lead. UC was forced to call timeout. Out of the break, Larry Davis found Gates under the basket for 2, but Louisville got it back on a Rock Buckles follow of a Knowles miss. Wilks scored on a UC put back, but UC gave up more points when Buckles found Delk open for 3. At 6:53, Louisville lead 31-21. Gates drew a foul before the timeout, and after made both foul shots. He was immediately taken off the dribble by Samardo Samuels though. Jaquon Parker followed that action, with a good play and a freshman play. The good, a lay up high off the glass over Samuels on UC’s third shot. The bad, he blew a 3 on 2 break by driving right in the middle of the 2 defenders, getting stripped by Knowles and losing the ball out of bounds. Sosa got the lead back to 10 by driving and dishing off to Samuels for a dunk. The lead went to 12 after the under 4 timeout, as Sosa made 2 free throws. Cincinnati missed about 3 tip ins on their next trip, but were able to score with a Thomas bucket after holding Louisville. Cashmere Wright drew a foul, but made 1 of 2. UC blew more easy points when Ibby couldn’t convert a bunny off a behind the back pass from Stephenson. Louisville followed that with a Sosa 3 off an offensive rebound. UC got a Thomas dunk from Wilks as the last field goal of the half. The remaining points were scored by 1 Sosa free throw, and 2 Vaughn free throws for a 41-32 Louisville advantage.
The Bearcats were 11-41, 3-11 from deep, but 7-8 at the free throw line, with 20 rebounds, 11 offensive. Darnell Wilks led the way again in the first half with 8, Ibrahima Thomas 6-5, Yancy Gates 6, Deonta Vaughn 5, Lance Stephenson 4, Jaquon Parker 2, Cashmere Wright 1. For Louisville, the Cards shot 15-29, 6-9, 5-6 at the stripe, with 16 rebounds, 5 offensive. Louisville had 9 assists. Edgar Sosa powered the Cardinals with 15, Reginald Delk 13, Terrence Jennings 4-4, Samardo Samuels 4-3, Preston Knowles 3, Rock Buckles 2, and Peyton Siva had 4 assists.
Yancy Gates scored the first 2 of the half for the Cats, but Edgar Sosa hit a 3 and a 2 for the Cardinals, putting them up 12. That seemed to wake Cincinnati up. Deonta Vaughn hit a 3, Gates got a cherry pick lay up from Parker after a wild Sosa lay up attempt, and Gates got a cherry pick dunk from Vaughn after a terrible Sosa pass intended for Jennings. It was 46-41 at 15:09. Gates added 2 more free throws to complete his 6-0 run, before Stephenson drove the lane, kicked back to Thomas for an open jumper to complete Cincinnati’s 11-0 run to cut the lead to 1. Samardo Samuels made 1 of 2 free throws for the Cards to push the lead back to two. But Stephenson drove inside to tie the score. Louisville got their first basket in 6:15 on a Samuels dunk from Sosa to retake the lead. Stephenson had a lay up attempt blocked excellently by Delk, and the Cards took advantage as Jared Swopshire found Samuels for another dunk. The Cats answered back with Stephenson getting to the rim, and Stephenson finding Wilks for a dunk and a foul at 9:48. Out of the media break, Wilks missed the free throw. But Cincinnati would take the lead on a Jaquon Parker put back, 53-51. Samuels scored over Gates on a hook shot that rattled home to tie again. Cincinnati retook the lead as we went into the under 8 timeout as Cash drove to the basket, scored, and was fouled. He missed the free throw, but Parker stole away the rebound. UC ended up turning the ball over, but Parker’s effort was great to see. And he wasn’t finished. Peyton Siva was stripped by Parker, who threw ahead to Lance Stephenson for a dunk. Parker then stole an offensive rebound away from Kyle Kuric on a Wilks airball, scored and was fouled. It was all effort on Jaquon’s part, and he drilled the free throw for a 7 point lead, 60-53. That capped a 25-7 Cincinnati run. Out of a Louisville timeout, Samuels drew a foul, and made both shots. Lance Stephenson was bumped a little as UC tried running their motion, and fell down. While he bitched at the official, Sosa canned an open 3. UC got some momentum back with a Wilks follow on a offensive rebound. Wilks forced Samuels into a tough shot while playing great man to man defense, and when Samuels fell, Gates raced up the floor for UC, letting the Cats take advantage of the numbers with a dunk. Edgar Sosa cut the lead to 64-61 with 3:19 left on a 3 pointer. UC’s toughness on the night was apparent for the next minute, as they missed 2 shots, but got both of the rebounds. One was thanks to Jared Swopshire going up one handed and batting the ball, instead of using 2 hands, allowing Parker to take it down. Parker was tremendous. UC couldn’t get a third shot up. Mick Cronin called a timeout and reinserted Deonta Vaughn, who did not play much during the UC run, it was all Parker, Wright, Stephenson, Wilks, Thomas and Gates. Vaughn had the ball near the time line, got double teamed, turned and tried throwing a pass. The bad thing was Preston Knowles hand was right there, and he forced a steal, got the ball to Sosa, who raced down, drew a foul, and scored a lay up with 1:45 left. Sosa missed though. Jaquon Parker drew a foul on Knowles, but only made the front end of a 1-1. Knowles came down for Louisville and missed a long 3 pointer, but Samuels was able to tip the ball back out, only for Cash to chase it down. A bullet dodged. For some reason, with 57 seconds left, Sosa fouled Cash. Cash missed the front end, causing a rash of f bombs in UC fans homes. The Cardinals shot was taken by Jared Swopshire, who short armed a 12 footer from the left wing, causing a rash of f bombs from UofL fans. Especially since Delk was wide open. Lance Stephenson wanted the ball, and with 29.7 left, he got it. Lance made both free throws for a 4 point lead. Sosa raced down and took a wild NBA 3 that missed. Stephenson grabbed the rebound and was fouled again. This time, he missed both. Delk hit a Louisville 3 with 9.7 seconds left. UC got the ball in to Deonta Vaughn. Vaughn wasn’t immediately fouled, and almost traveled. The foul came with 5.9 seconds left. The senior calmly nailed both and iced the game on defense. Sosa took the pass and seemed like he was expecting to be fouled from halfcourt on. When he went up for a shot high off the left wing, Vaughn stripped him, and UC took the victory, 69-66.
Cincinnati shot 25-72 34.7%, 4-18, 15-22 from the stripe, with 46 rebounds, 21 offensive. Jaquon Parker had 8 points, 9 rebounds, 7 offensive. Yancy Gates 16-5, Lance Stephenson 12-4-3, Darnell Wilks 12-7, Deonta Vaughn 10, Ibrahima Thomas 8-8, and Cashmere Wright 2-5. Louisville was 24-55 43.6%, 10-18, 8-14 at the stripe, with 29 rebounds, 8 offensive. They were led by Edgar Sosa, 28-6, but 3-8 at the stripe, Reginald Delk 16, Samardo Samuels 13, Terrence Jennings 4-5, Preston Knowles 3, and Rock Buckles 2.
It was a great game, probably the best of the Big East tournament. Cincinnati showed so much heart, so much determination, so much desire the second half. They weren’t going to lose, and they forced Louisville into their game. It was the best half Cincinnati played this season. I was proud watching them play that second half. Some of you can bitch and ask where this was all season, and while that’s your incentive, and fair, you should chill out and enjoy the ride. The team has played hard the last 2 days, and they’ve won. Darnell Wilks has been out of this world the past 2 games. I don’t know where this came from, but I’m glad it’s here. And I’m even more glad we get to play tomorrow.