The University of Cincinnati basketball team rallied behind the second half play of juniors Sean Kilpatrick and Justin Jackson, coming from behind to defeat the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 62-54 Wednesday night at Fifth Third Arena.
Kilpatrick scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half, and Jackson’s effort at both ends (seven points, seven rebounds and six blocks) was the difference in the game.
“He [Jackson] played his best game all year,” Kilpatrick said. “He really got back to the old Justin Jackson and that’s blocking everything, saving everything, jumping into the crowd and being the energy guy that we need him to be.”
UC has been plagued by poor first half offensive performances all season and Wednesday night was no different, as the Bearcats went 8-25 (32 percent) from the field in the first half.
“Rutgers came to play early and their intensity affected us early in the game,” said UC head coach Mick Cronin. “They started a bigger line up against us, presumably for defensive rebounding,
and I think it worked.”
Rutgers led 13-5 at the under-12 media timeout, with the Bearcats shooting just 2-12 from the field at that point.
Cashmere Wright’s first half absence, after picking up two early fouls, clearly hampered UC offensively.
UC’s guards did not score until Kilpatrick hit the Bearcats’ first 3-pointer of the game with 6:03 remaining in the half — the basket was the Bearcats’ first from outside of the paint.
Kilpatrick’s jumper cut Rutgers’ lead to three — the smallest deficit since Rutgers led 5-1 at the 16-minute mark — but Rutgers extended its lead back to eight, 30-22, before the half.
Jerome Seagears and Myles Mack paced the Scarlet Knights with 11 and 9 first half points respectively.
Eight points from Cheick Mbodj and three straight blocks from Justin Jackson kept Rutgers from extending its lead even further before the half.
Kilpatrick caught fire early in the second half, scoring eight straight points to lead UC on a 10-point run that cut Rutgers lead to 36-35 with 14:49 remaining in
A pair of free throws from JaQuon Parker, after a great transition hustle and block by Mbodj, tied the game at 40-40 with 11:27 remaining. Kilpatrick’s steal and layup on the ensuing possession gave UC its first lead of the game, 42-40. Rutgers never led again.
Jackson pushed UC’s lead to four, 46-42, with back-to-back dunks and a monstrous block on the defensive end
“He was tremendous, he got his teammates fired up and obviously got the crowd into it,” Cronin said. “He earned a start the last couple days in practice. He was great in practice [and] I knew he was going to play well tonight.”
Eli Carter tied the game at 46-46 with a pair of free throws, but UC senior Cashmere Wright gave UC the lead for good with a deep 3-pointer with
Wright, Kilpatrick, Ge’Lawn Guyn and Titus Rubles combined to make 11-16 free throws over the final six minutes, sealing UC’s 62-54 victory.
Kilpatrick’s 19 points led all scorers. Mack finished with 15 points to lead the Scarlet Knights.
UC travels to South Orange, N.J Saturday for an 11 a.m. tip off against Seton Hall.