A commanding early lead for Cincinnati didn't hold as Providence fought to make Wednesday's first Big East game relatively tight, but the Bearcats held on for the 61-44 win. Their reward is a matchup with No. 1 Georgetown, but they'll deal with that Thursday.
This game started out as a lopsided affair for the Bearcats: Cincinnati got scoring from pretty much everybody who checked into the game, while Providence clanged and clanged, blowing opportunities around the basket, missing in transition and just generally not figuring out how to get the ball into the hoop. The scoreline grew to 13-2, 18-4, and at one point, JaQuon Parker nailed two threes to give himself 10 points while the Friars had just eight.
But about halfway through the first half, Providence extended its defense into a full-court press. Cincinnati tried deliberately attacking it, but the Bearcats' offense was clearly flustered. A series of turnovers and conversions by Providence -- and actual shots falling -- allowed the Friars to cut an 18-point lead to just eight by the half.
Providence would keep it going into the second, scoring the first four points of the period on a LeDontae Henton rebound and layup and a finish by Bryce Cotton. That's as close as the Friars could get. They hung around, but a three by Sean Kilpatrick from just in front of the Big East logo followed by an and-1 off an offensive board by Parker gave Cincinnati a 10-point lead with four minutes to go.
The Friars were never able to get it going from beyond the arc, hitting just 1-of-14 from three. They also weren't getting much done in the lane, as Chiekh Mbodj altered pretty much anything close, finishing with five blocks -- although, his contests often left Providence able to grab offensive rebounds. Cincinnati didn't have a particularly great game offensively - just 40.0 percent shooting from the field - but the Bearcats limited Providence, who shot just 28.6 percent from the field, enough to get the win.
Kilpatrick led the way for Cincinnati with 17. Kadeem Batts and Cotton each got into double-digits for the Friars, but each needed at least 15 shots to do so.
Cincinnati plays top-seeded Georgetown Thursday, which will be a more difficult game to win. A victory there could put the Bearcats into the NCAA Tournament, where they wouldn't be now.