CINCINNATI PRESS CONFERENCE
SYRACUSE PRESS CONFERENCE
INTERVIEW WITH DION DIXON
INTERVIEW WITH SEAN KILPATRICK
NEW YORK (AP)--Sean Kilpatrick keyed Cincinnati's early 3-point barrage and scored 18 points as the Bearcats held on for a 71-68 victory over No. 2 Syracuse on Friday night in the semifinals of the Big East Championship Presented by American Eagle Outfitters.
The fourth-seeded Bearcats (24-9) will meet the Louisville-Notre Dame winner in Saturday night's championship game at Madison Square Garden.
To get there, they ended the 11-game winning streak of the top-seeded Orange (31-2). They did it with an incredible shooting performance over the opening 14 minutes of the game when they took a 17-point lead, and then by holding on as Syracuse was able to get within one point in the final seconds.
This was Cincinnati's seventh win over a ranked team this season, the most in the country.
Dion Waiters had 28 points for Syracuse, which was able to close within 69-68 with 5.4 seconds left when he made two free throws, the second one he was trying to miss. Justin Jackson was all alone when he dunked with 1 second left for a three-point lead and Waiters' desperation heave from beyond midcourt was off at the buzzer.
The loss shouldn't hurt the Orange's chances of being a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, but it did keep them from getting a chance to play for a sixth Big East title and first since 2006.
Yancy Gates had 18 points, while Cashmere Wright and Dion Dixon both had 11 for the Bearcats, who came into the Big East tournament with its at-large NCAA berth still up for debate. That's no longer true with the double-overtime quarterfinal win over No. 13 Georgetown and the victory over Syracuse in their first-ever semifinal appearance.
The Bearcats shredded Syracuse's famed 2-3 zone from the start, making six of their first seven 3-point attempts. They made eight of their first 10 shots from beyond the arc in taking a 34-17 lead with 5:43 left in the first half with Kilpatrick going 4 of 4. That was one point shy of Syracuse's biggest deficit this season, and that came at Notre Dame in its only loss of the season. It was only the third time this season the Orange trailed by double figures.
The sellout crowd of 20,057, which was wearing a lot of orange, was stunned as Syracuse shot 31 percent in the first half (9 of 29), while the Bearcats went 13 of 26 and had an assist on all but one of the field goals. A modest 6-1 run to close the half had Syracuse within 35-23.
The crowd came alive as the Orange chipped away at the lead. They became the team with the touch from 3-point range, shooting 9 of 17 in the second half while Cincinnati missed its first six 3s. Kilpatrick made the Bearcats' only 3s of the second half in nine attempts, the second from the left corner as the shot clock ran out that made it 65-55 with 1:47 to play.
The Orange weren't done.
Scoop Jardine, Kris Joseph and Waiters all made a 3 in the final 37 seconds. Waiters' 3 made it 68-66 with 17 seconds to play.
JaQuon Parker made one of two free throws with 15.6 seconds left. Waiters was fouled before he could get off a possible tying 3-pointer. He made the first and when the second went through the net, he turned to the Syracuse bench with slumped shoulders as he apparently tried to miss it to give the Orange one last chance.
It was the second straight year Syracuse lost in the semifinals. Connecticut beat the Orange 76-71 in overtime last season on its way to the tournament title.