The Cincinnati Bearcats might have put the Syracuse Orange's once-assured status as an NCAA tournament No. 1 seed in doubt after stunning the No. 2 ranked Orange, 71-68, in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament. The Bearcats held on after a furious rally, led by Big East Sixth Man of the Year Dion Waiters, and came up just short in the final seconds.
The Bearcats couldn't have come out any hotter in this one, making eight of their first 10 three-point attempts, doubling up the Orange 34-17 more than 10 minutes into the game. Head coach Mick Cronin's players picked apart the patented Syracuse zone with ruthless efficiency, moving the ball around the perimeter, hitting the open three-pointers and using the open spaces in the floor to knock down mid-range jumpers. They compiled 10 assists on their first 11 baskets, which helped them amass a 12 point lead at halftime.
The second half seemed like it was going to be a different story at first, as the Orange, fueled by what might as well have been a home crowd in Madison Square Garden, started to hit some shots and get stops, but they weren't able to close the gap very much, as they were still down 10 with 10 minutes left in the game. Eventually though, the Orange's shots started to fall.
Waiters shot 7-10 from three-point range and tried to almost single-handedly carry the Orange back. He was helped by timely deep shooting from Brandon Triche as well, but after a Waiters three-pointer brought it to within two, Cincinnati's Jaquon Parker made one of two free throws to extend the Bearcats lead to three. Waiters was then fouled before he could get a three-pointer off, made the first free throw on purpose and then made the second despite trying to miss, sealing the Bearcats' upset.
Waiters led all scorers with 28 points, and Sean Kilpatrick and Yancy Gates led the Bearcats with 18 points apiece. The Bearcats shot 10-22 from three-point range in the game, which in the end was simply too much for the Orange to overcome. They'll face the winner of the Notre Dame and Louisville game in the final on Saturday.
For more on the Orange and their loss, visit Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician. For Bearcats reaction to the big win, head to Down The Drive. For complete coverage of the 2012 Big East Tournament, stay tuned to this StoryStreamor visit SB Nation's dedicated NCAA basketball hub. For more on all the teams in the Big East tournament, visit Big East Coast Bias and SB Nation New York.