Sean Kilpatrick’s 36th point was enough to give Cincinnati an epic 71-69 overtime win at Fifth Third Arena Saturday night.
The Golden Eagles trailed by as much 16 in the first half but battled their way back to a tie at 61 after a tip in from Trent Lockett with 49 seconds left.
“Without sounding simplistic, you make shots when you deserve to make shots,” coach Buzz Williams said. “I don’t think we deserved to make shots in the first half.”
Two free throws from Sean Kilpatrick in the waning seconds gave Cincinnati a 63-61 lead, but Davante Gardner was fouled in the post with 2.9 seconds left and calmly sank both free throws to tie the game at 63.
“I’ve had pressure in high school, but college is more serious,” Gardner said. “I was just thinking ‘don’t miss the second one’ after I made the first.”
After a pair of timeouts, Cincinnati threw the ball away on the ensuing inbound and a half-court heave from Vander Blue clanked off the top of the backboard as regulation expired. Marquette entered 6-2 in overtime during Williams’ tenure.
Todd Mayo gave Marquette its first lead of the game on a 3-pointer with 4:07 to play in overtime, but four points from Kilpatrick, sandwiched by a free throw from Titus Rubles gave Cincinnati a 68-66 lead.
Kilpatrick proceeded to hit one of two free throws before a three-point play from Gardner tied the game with 15 seconds left before Kilpatrick’s winner.
“I thought Todd (Mayo) did a much better job in the second half (guarding Kilpatrick),” Williams said. “We kind of changed philosophically with how we guarded him in the second half and I thought Todd did a good job there.”
Marquette had quite possibly the worst half it has ever played under coach Buzz Williams in the first half, trailing 29-13 and shooting just 17.9 percent from the field.
It was entirely different in the second half, however, as the Golden Eagles scored 50 points while holding the Bearcats to 34.
The Golden Eagles shot just 32.3 percent for the game. Vander Blue finished with a team-high 19 points but disappeared for stretches throughout the game.
Williams said that was indicative of the team as a whole, but said it played much better in the final 25 minutes of the game.
“I actually felt good at halftime,” Williams said. “I think our guys understand five Big East games in that this is what we need to do to have a chance.”