Battle in the Big East: Pittsburgh at Cincinnati

        Somewhere, lost in yesterday's news of a #9 North Carolina upset, was a battle between Big East teams: Pittsburgh taking on Cincinnati. The Pittsburgh Panthers came into the game sporting a 12-2 record and winners of their previous five, including a victory at #5 Syracuse Saturday. The Bearcats of Cincinnati were among the Big East's best, at 10-3 with four straight victories including a win over #10 UConn right before the New Year. On paper, it was the perfect match-up; balanced offenses against gritty defenses. Cincinnati's distinguished, athletic backcourt against the Panthers' offensively-minded wings. Pittsburgh was undefeated on the road and the Bearcats were 7-0 at home.

         In the first half, it was Cincinnati's dynamic duo of Sophomore Forward, Yancy Gates and Freshman Guard, Lance Stephenson, that led the charge. Gates and Stephenson combined for 25 points and 9 rebounds, but they found themselves losing by six at the half. Just midway through the second half, Cincinnati found themselves tied at 49 with the Panthers, but then Pittsburgh Guard, Gilbert Brown, who missed the team's first 11 games due to an academic suspension, scored eight straight points, helping to build a lead that the Bearcats could not overcome.

        Down the stretch, Pittsburgh gave the ball to Sophomore Guard, Ashton Gibbs, who scored 14-second half points and 19 total in the game. In the final ten seconds, Gibbs was sent to the foul line twice, making two of two in his first trip and one of two in his second set, sealing the victory for the Pittsburgh Panthers- 74-71.

        Pittsburgh (13-2, 3-0) continues Big East play and goes for seven straight wins against the nation's #13 team, the UConn Huskies on Wednesday, while the Cincinnati Bearcats (10-4, 2-1) take a break from conference play to take on Cal State- Bakersfield at home.

By Corey Ruff - President - 1-5-10