Bearcats fans knew that it was going to happen at some point and Sunday’s road game at No. 7 Villanova was the likely place. The No. 25 Cincinnati Bearcats (15-1 overall; 2-1 Big East) lost to Villanova (14-1; 3-1 Big East) 70-61 Sunday, snapping their 15-game win streak to start the season.
Cincinnati started the season 15-0 for the first time since 1998-99. The Bearcats started 19-0 in 1962-63. Rashad Bishop led Cincinnati with 14 points while Yancy Gates and Sean Kilpatrick added 11 each.
[Box Score: No. 25 Cincinnati 61, No. 7 Villanova 72]
But the Bearcats couldn’t get anything going offensively and finished with 23 points in the first half, the fewest in any game this season. They finished 3 of 20 from 3-point range for the game.
Gates couldn’t muster the same dominance that he showed last week in the Crosstown Shootout where he owned Xavier both with mid-range shots and on the boards.
In a battle of the top two defenses in the Big East, Villanova’s swarming defenders didn’t cause a large amount of turnovers, but created difficult shots for the ‘Cats all game.
Twice in the game, the Bearcats trailed by 20 points. They didn’t quit, though, and reduced the lead to 7 points mid-way throught he second half.
“I think we’re real good,” Bishop said. “To come in at Villanova, go down early and then fight back shows a lot of maturity on our part.”
However, their comebacks continued to fall just short, as ‘Nova regrouped and responded accordingly after each barage.
Cincinnati misfired at times, going more than 8 minutes without a field goal during one stretch. The officiating made the game even more frustrating for UC. The bench continually erupted on a number of fouls that were called. The Bearcats’ bench had been warned a couple of times earlier in the half for arguing about calls.
Then with 2:06 remaining, coach Mick Cronin received a technical foul and promptly removed his suit jacket in frustration while being held back by some of his players from yelling further at the officials.
“I’m not going to comment on the officials,” Cronin said. “I’ll just say we didn’t adjust to the game.”
Less than 2 minutes into the second half, Cincinnati forward Ibrahima Thomas was called for a technical foul after complaining following a foul call on Villanova’s Mouphtaou Yarou with 18:38 left in regulation.
Villanova upped its winning streak at The Pavilion, its cozy 6,500-seat on-campus arena, to 45 straight. The streak began on Jan. 17, 2007, and now includes 19 wins over Big East teams.
Next up for Cincinnati is a Big East home game against South Florida (6-11; 0-4 Big East) before heading back on the road for games at No. 4 Syracuse (16-0; 3-0), at No. 12 Notre Dame (14-2; 3-1) and at St. John’s (10-4; 3-1).
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