The Cincinnati Bearcats (9-2, 0-0 Big East) defeated the Eastern Kentucky Colonels (7-4, 1-1 OVC) in overtime Saturday night by a score of 85-77.
The Colonels held a large advantage for most of the night, leading by 15 at one point in the first half. It wasn't until a 3 point shot by Larry Davis with 1:51 remaining in the game that UC took the lead from the Colonels, only to relinquish it right back.
The Bearcats found themselves trailing by 2 with just 4.6 seconds remaining in regulation, but an alley-oop pass from Deonta Vaughn to Yancy Gates as time expired sent the game into an extra period.
After the game, Deonta Vaughn talked about the play that sent it in to overtime
"That was just the way he drew it up," said Vaughn. "He told us to just play solid. We didn't really expect them to play defense like that, but that's the way he drew it up and it worked to perfection."
From there on out, things went in the Bearcats favor. The Bearcats carried the momentum in to overtime and simply overpowered a tired and deflated Eastern Kentucky team.
While most would not have expected the Bearcats to find themselves in such a fight with Eastern Kentucky, Coach Cronin said after the game that he was pleased with the resilience his team showed to pull out a tough victory against an underrated Eastern Kentucky team.
Click Here to view the play that sent the game into overtimeClick "I'm really proud of our guys," said Cronin. "They hit some backbreaking shots as the shot clock expired from 25 to 29 feet. We had many, many chances to go away, but our guys never gave up and never gave in." Here to view this Link.
The Bearcats benefited from balanced scoring throughout the game, with 4 players scoring in double figures. Larry Davis, Deonta Vaughn, Mike Williams, and Yancy Gates all eclipsed the 10 point mark in the win.
Mike Williams, who had 13 points, 16 rebounds, and his second double-double in as many games, said after the game that rebounding was a main focal point for the team coming in to the contest.
"We wanted to focus on rebounding because we knew with the type of offense they were running there would be a lot of back cuts and it would be difficult to defend," said Williams. "We knew we would need to crash the boards."
Mick Cronin also said after the game that Williams was incredible in his performance.
"Mike was awesome," said Cronin. "I really got after him in practice. You can't stand around and wait for the ball to come to you. You have to go back to why you were a McDonald's All-American. You have to be relentless around the rim."
Yancy Gates turned in one of his best performance of his young career, finishing with 17 points and 18 rebounds, and the unsung hero of the game may have been Larry Davis who poured in 14 big points, including the 3 point basket at the end of the game that gave the Bearcats their first lead since early in the first half.
The 15 point comeback marks the largest comeback for the Bearcats since the 2006-2007 season when they erased a 17 point deficit against West Virginia to win in overtime.
After the game Deonta Vaughn spoke to the mentality the team took on once they found themselves in such a hole.
"Just keep playing hard," said Vaughn. "Good teams come back. We feel we are a good team. We know how to dig in and fight and we have guys who have been through this and know how to come back. They came in having won 6 out of their last 7 and they were ready to play."
With the win, the Bearcats improved their record to seven games over .500. But things will only get more difficult from here on out. After a game against Arkansas – Pine Bluff, the Bearcats will travel to Tennessee to take on the nationally ranked Memphis Tigers.
"We had many chances to fold. They hit a couple back breaking shots…we never gave up."