CINCINNATI (AP) -- Gerry McNamara cut the small-in-number
Bearcats down to size.
McNamara scored 29 points, and Demetris Nichols started a
second-half surge that carried Syracuse (No. 24 ESPN/USA Today; unranked AP) to its 12th straight win
Saturday night, 77-58 over depleted Cincinnati (unranked ESPN/USA Today; No. 25 AP).
The Orange (15-2, 3-0 Big East) trailed most of the first half,
when Cincinnati's starting lineup held its own with the help of a
freshman tight end fresh off the football roster. It wasn't nearly
The Bearcats (13-4, 2-2) were dominated in the second half,
unable to keep up with a balanced and deep Syracuse attack led by
McNamara. The senior guard was 7-of-10 from the field for 22 points
"When Gerry gets going like that, it's disheartening," coach
Jim Boeheim said. "He can pull up and make it from anywhere inside
the half court."
McNamara, who made seven 3-pointers in a win at Notre Dame on
Wednesday, went 5-of-9 from behind the arc during his sixth
20-point game of the season. Nichols added 16 points and made a
pair of jumpers that started the second-half surge that left the
"In the second half, we came out with our uniforms on but left
our hearts in the locker room," Cincinnati power forward Eric
Hicks said glumly.
James White scored 16 points for Cincinnati, which got
outrebounded 51-27 and shot 33 percent from the field.
"This team has worked extremely hard in the last two months to
earn credibility," coach Andy Kennedy said. "I hope they did not
lose that credibility in the last two hours."
The Bearcats had little time to adjust to the loss of 6-foot-8
forward Armein Kirkland, their tallest starter and one of their
best defenders. Kirkland tore a knee ligament on Monday night,
leaving the already short-handed Bearcats without enough players to
Kennedy invited football players to try out for the team on
Wednesday. Freshman tight end Connor Barwin showed up and, after
only three practices, was in a Big East game.
The 6-foot-4 blocker-turned-rebounder didn't have his name on
the back of his No. 51 uniform when he got into the game with 5:07
left in the first half, drawing an ovation. Fifty-two seconds
later, he was at the line for a free throw -- he missed off the back
of the rim.
He got his first rebound with 18 seconds left in the half, got
fouled and got a standing ovation for making both free throws.
Nichols turned that moment into the final highlight for Cincinnati.
Nichols' 3-pointer at the buzzer tied it 34-all at halftime and
silenced the Bearcats' first capacity crowd in 13 home games, the
fallout from coach Bob Huggins' ouster in August.
Cincinnati led most of the first half with intense defense and a
gritty performance by White, who played all 20 minutes and scored
14 points. His driving bank shot gave the Bearcats their biggest
Kennedy stayed with his starters for the first 8 minutes, a sign
of the lack of depth that started to take its toll at the opening
of the second half.
"I know the loss of Armein is going to impact the team,"
Kennedy said. "I refuse to allow that to be an obstacle we cannot
overcome. I refuse to allow these kids to say, "Well, what could
have been?' It's my job to continue to try to find a way."
Nichols made three jumpers in a 10-point run that put Syracuse
up 44-37, its biggest lead to that point. Orange guard Eric
Devendorf got his fourth foul during the spurt, forcing McNamara to
assume a bigger role.
No problem. McNamara hit consecutive 3s from the top of the key,
and Nichols made a three-point play off a drive to the basket as
Syracuse challenged the Bearcats' depleted front line.
McNamara made a pair of free throws and another 3 from the top
of the key during a spurt that put Syracuse in control at 66-51.
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Ted Kapita was the top-rated recruit from West Virginia in the class of 2015 and recently played at DME Academy in Florida.
With the Suns drafting Tyler Ulis, they now have five guards on their roster who attended Kentucky.
NBA fans will be looking forward to their newest players making plays like this next season.