NEW YORK — Cincinnati simply has Georgetown’s number.

Senior forward Yancy Gates scored 23 points to lead the Bearcats (23-9) to an epic 72-70 double-overtime win over the Hoyas (23-8) in the Big East tournament quarterfinals. The win was Cincinnati’s fourth straight over Georgetown.

ERICA WONG FOR THE HOYA
ERICA WONG FOR THE HOYA

Gates and senior center Henry Sims exchanged baskets in the final minutes before Cincinnati junior guard Cashmere Wright hit a floater with seven seconds left to put the Bearcats up by two. The Hoyas ran a pick-and-pop with senior guard Jason Clark and Sims at the top of the key, but the center missed a 20-foot jumper at the buzzer.

Sims’ shot would have been the third straight buzzer-beater for the Blue and Gray, who had already entered two do-or-die possessions down a basket. Freshman forward Otto Porter sank a midrange jumper from the right wing to send the game into overtime; Sims later recovered from missing two free throws in the first overtime, hitting a driving layup at the buzzer to force the second.

The thrilling finish was only made possible because Georgetown blew an 11-point second-half lead, committing 12 of its 14 turnovers after the break and letting the Bearcats back into a game that looked all but over midway through the second half.

“They only had two turnovers at halftime, so we needed to turn up the heat,” Cincinnati Head Coach Mick Cronin said. “You try to keep them off-balance as much as possible.”

Georgetown responded well to an early second-half challenge, as the Bearcats scored a few quick buckets and Porter was whistled for a flagrant foul after inadvertently elbowing sophomore guard Sean Kilpatrick in the chin. The lead shrank to as little as two, but the Hoyas rallied to open up a double-digit margin.

Turnovers and missed opportunities were the story of the night from there on out, however. The Hoyas missed five of 10 free throws in the second half — including several front ends of 1-and-1 opportunities — and sunk only two field goals in the final 10 minutes of regulation.

“It’s difficult to come in here and lose. … when I think the key things were rebounds, turnovers and then you put your foul shots in, and that’s what’s different,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said.

The Hoyas still might have prevailed, however, but for an outstanding effort from Gates in the paint. The 6-foot-9 senior battled his way through solid defense from Sims and Porter to score 15 of his 23 points in the second half and overtime periods. He ripped offensive rebounds at key junctures and had a crucial steal in the second overtime that led to a fastbreak basket.

“When you’ve got a guy like him doing that, then it gives you some options,” Cronin said of Gates. “Our offense changed once he started finishing [and] we started getting him the ball.”

Gates’ impressive performance was needed, as a swarming Georgetown defense held the trigger-happy Bearcats to an abysmal 2-of-21 mark from three-point land. Kilpatrick and senior guard Dion Dixon, Cincinnati’s top two scorers, finished a combined 8-of-27 overall.

“To go two for 21 from three against Georgetown and win the game is unthinkable, to be honest with you,” Cronin said. “So I’m just really proud of this team.”

Sims racked up 22 points and 15 rebounds, while Porter added 14 and seven in the losing effort. Junior forward Hollis Thompson struggled once again, shooting 4-of-13 for 10 points and badly missing several attempts.

The Hoyas’ NCAA tournament fate is up in the air now, as they appear to be straddling the line between a three and four seed but will have to wait until Sunday to find out. What is certain, though, is that this wasn’t the Big East finale the Georgetown seniors expected.

“I’d rather be in here talking about a win,” Clark said.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*