Anchored by the 6’4”, 221-pound Kilpatrick’s career-high 36 points, the Bearcats, devoid of Wright due to a knee sprain sustained earlier in the week, topped No. 25 Marquette, 71-69, in overtime at Fifth Third Arena to snap a three-game home skid and put a halt to the Golden Eagles’ six-game winning streak.
The Golden Eagles (13-4, 4-1), who overcame a 16-point halftime deficit, played their third overtime contest in less than three weeks and, for the first time since the onset of league play on Jan. 1, got the short end of the stick in a down-to-the-wire affair.
“I think our team is growing in its confidence,” noted Marquette head coach Buzz Williams, whose club shot 17.9 percent in the first half and 32.3 percent on the game, according to jsonline.com, “but specific to Kilpatrick, he shot 23 times and scored 36 points. That’s efficiency. We could not do anything with him. We could not guard him. He scored literally 50 percent of their points.”
And the Bearcats needed each and every one of them to emerge victorious.
Following a 12-0 start to their 2012-13 campaign, the Bearcats (16-3, 4-2) entered the weekend having dropped three of their past six contests—including three straight at home.
From the outset, it appeared Cincinnati had little to fear in respect to the aforementioned streak extending to a fourth consecutive home defeat.
As the Golden Eagles, one of two lone Big East affiliates (Syracuse) without a conference loss to their name entering Saturday, churned out a mere four field goals over the first 17 minutes of the opening frame, the Bearcats, behind a baker’s dozen from Kilpatrick, held a 25-10 edge with 3:51 until intermission.
Despite boasting a 29-13 lead at the half, the Bearcats, similar to the visitors from the Dairy State, put forth a less than stellar offensive performance during the game’s first 20 minutes.
All told, the two schools combined for 14 field made field goals (on 58 attempts), ten turnovers, six assists (only one of which came via an MU player), and a 5-of-28 showing from beyond the arc, with the Golden Eagles shooting 0-for-9.
Momentum briskly swung in the blue and gold’s favor courtesy of a trio of three-point baskets from Vander Blue—who scored 14 of his team-high 19 points in the second frame—to begin the half.
Following a Kilpatrick three pointer (his fourth of the night) with 12:34 remaining in regulation, the Bearcats held a 41-31 lead. Marquette, however, would not fade away.
Pulling to within 55-54 courtesy of a 23-14 scoring spurt, the Golden Eagles, who won the rebounding battle, 38-36, engaged in a de facto free throw contest with Mick Cronin’s club down the stretch.
Spanning the final 3:28 of regulation, the Bearcats and Golden Eagles shot a collective 13-of-18 at the foul line—none more bigger, though, than the pair attempted by Marquette big man Davante Gardner with three seconds on the clock.
With his club down 63-61, the 6’8”, 290-pound Gardner, who finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds and a pair of blocked shots off the bench, was fouled underneath by David Nyarsuk and, brushing off the verbal onslaught of the 12,812 in attendance, calmly sank the free tosses to send the affair into an extra period.
In overtime, Cincinnati, who improved to 27-19 all-time against MU, nursed a 69-66 lead with 25 seconds left thanks to the seven points pumped in by Kilpatrick.
However, a three-point play by Gardner knotted the score at 69 apiece with 15 seconds to play and set the stage for yet another dramatic finish for the blue and gold.
Kilpatrick, though, ensured that Marquette would not depart the Queen City triumphant.
Taking the ball the length of the court, Kilpatrick, a junior hailing from White Plains, N.Y., as he had done all game, zig zagged around the Marquette defense to convert a layup with 2.3 seconds remaining and, essentially, seal the Golden Eagles’ fate.
“I think everyone thinks I’m exaggerating when I say every game is going to be like this, but this is our margin and this is who we are,” cited Williams, whose club trumped Cincinnati in bench scoring, 35-8, and second chance points, 20-13, as reported by the AP. “I don’t think that’s going to change. I think that if we’re going to win, it’s going to be a one-or-two possession game.”
Indeed, and Kilpatrick, who averaged 12.5 points during Cincinnati’s first four conference games, proved to be the deciding factor on Saturday.
“I’ll never stop shooting because I know my teammates and coaches have a lot of confidence in me,” noted Kilpatrick, who net 25 points in the second half and overtime, according to the AP. “I said to the team: ‘We’re down a leader, and that’s something everybody’s got to do in this game. Everybody’s got to step up.’ “
The Golden Eagles return to the hardwood on Saturday when they play host to Providence at 1:00p.m. CST.