For the third straight game, defensive lapses hurt the University of Cincinnati men's basketball team as they dropped a heartbreaker in overtime to Providence 81-79.
"We played bad defense for the third straight game," said head coach Mick Cronin. "We really have no excuse. We should have done a much better job on the defensive end of the floor."
Providence held a lead for most of the game despite giving up 22 offensive rebounds to the Bearcats. The Friars shot 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from downtown in regulation.
"When a team's shooting 50 percent, you are asking for a loss," said senior John Williamson. "You have to come out and keep teams to at least 40 or lower. We are a low-scoring team anyway. We usually score about 60, 50 points a game and when a team comes out and shoots 50 percent and scores 70, that's tough on us because we really rely on our defense to win games."
The Bearcats led 73-71 with 19 seconds left in regulation, but Providence still had one last chance to tie the game. Marshon Brooks had his jumper blocked by freshman Rashad Bishop, then Brian McKenzie grabbed the loose ball and attempted to fire up a three which was blocked again, this time by Marcus Sikes. As the ball was batted around in the air, Brooks grabbed it and banked one in to send the game into overtime.
With 42 seconds left in overtime, Brooks stole the ball from Larry Davis and after getting fouled, gave the Friars an 80-79 lead with a free throw.
The Bearcats got the ball in to John Williamson on their last possession but Brooks swooped in and swatted the potential game-winner.
"I went up and they just came up behind me," said Williamson. "I tried to go up as strong as I could because I knew it was a two-on-one situation and they came from behind me and blocked it."
Williamson led the way for the Bearcats with 19 points on 8-of-16 shooting.
Providence stormed out to a 12-2 lead in the opening minutes of the game and took advantage of the Bearcats' lackadaisical play early on.
"When you are coaching a team, it's tough when a team comes out flat the way we did," said Cronin. "We lost that game with our approach to the game. It was very evident by our lack of effort in the first half. We didn't bring the intensity level to the table today that has got us eight wins in the conference."
Larry Davis kept the Bearcats in the game early on with 12 points in the first half and 16 points for the game, but said his individual performance was irrelevant.
"It didn't matter because we lost," said Davis. "We played bad defense."
After the game, Cronin said there is a fine line between winning and losing for his team.
"It's a very simple line for us, said Cronin. "When we defend and we defend well, we beat high quality teams in the league. Maybe the best team in the league. When you go into Louisville and West Virginia and give up 39 and 57 (points), you should be able to hold somebody below 70 at home."