It wasn’t easy, but Mick Cronin, Sean Kilpatrick, and the Cincinnati Bearcats just grabbed perhaps their best win of the 2013-2014 season. The 13th-ranked Bearcats survived 20 turnovers with big-time offense, and in the end, they outlasted the 12th-ranked Louisville Cardinals by a final score of 69-66.
Cincinnati raced to an 8-point advantage (28-20) at the halftime break, but the real fireworks wouldn’t take place until the final 20 minutes began. The Bearcats amassed what looked to be an insurmountable 17-point lead at 44-27 with 16:12 remaining, but from that point forward, Louisville was determined to make things quite interesting. The Cardinals, playing at home, responded with a 9-0 run to cut the advantage to a much more manageable 8 points, and from there, they continued their assault until they snatched the lead with a Russ Smith 3-pointer at the 5:03 mark.
Unfortunately for Rick Pitino and company, their success was short-lived, as Justin Jackson (who returned from injury just in time for this game) converted a tip-in to retake the lead with 1:43 to play, and Cincinnati’s star, Sean Kilpatrick, put the game to its final margin with 4 free throws in the final 8.9 seconds to preserve the win. Kilpatrick was tremendous from the opening tip, but his second half effort was key in pushing the Bearcats to the win, and he finished with 28 points despite a bit of a rough shooting night at 7-for-18 from the floor.
Louisville wasn’t void of heroic play, either, as they placed three players with 16-or-more points in the game. Still, the Cardinals were unable to take full advantage of the fact that they caused the aforementioned 20 turnovers by Cincy, and they simply couldn’t get the stops they needed while allowing 49% from the floor and giving up 11 offensive rebounds.
With the win, Cincinnati will almost surely jump into the top-10 of the national rankings, and at 9-0 in AAC play, they certainly deserve that honor. Sean Kilpatrick is one of the most underrated players in the nation, and with the experience and talent that Mick Cronin’s club has, they’ll be a tough out for anyone when March arrives.