The Bearcats, who have been put in a corner by Ohio State, the behemoth state school that has refused to play its neighbor, got the Buckeyes last night on the biggest stage.
The Buckeyes played with the poise of a No. 2 seed to pull away for an 81-66 East Regional semifinal win in the NCAA Tournament.
Ohio State took a 21-6 roundhouse from Cincinnati and trailed 46-43. But the Buckeyes (30-7) responded with a 20-7 hook of their own to knockout the Bearcats.
Ohio State will face top-seeded Syracuse tomorrow for the right to go to the Final Four. Cincinnati finishes at 26-11.
“I think that we’ve come a long way,’’ Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. “I take a lot of pride in that. Nothing has been given to us.’’
It was the third of three games yesterday between the Big East against the Big Ten. Syracuse edged Wisconsin 64-63 and Louisville crushed Michigan State in the second half 57-44. The Big Ten saved face with Ohio State’s win.
The Buckeyes, perhaps as offensively talented as any team left in the tournament, got 23 points and 11 rebounds from power forward Jared Sullinger and 26 points and seven rebounds from Deshaun Thomas, who had 20 in the first half.
“We work well together,’’ Thomas said. “I think be one of the top forwards in the country from my eyes.’’
Cincinnati was led by Cashmere Wright’s 18 points and 15 points from Sean Kilpatrick of White Plains. The Buckeyes had four players in double figures, including guard Aaron Craft who had 11 points, six steals, five assists and four rebounds.
The Buckeyes led 37-25 at halftime and seemed to have too many weapons for the Bearcats. But Cincinnati used its physical defense and scrappiness to surge to the 46-43 lead. The Bearcats had made the game a rock fight.
Ohio State responded with feathery jumpers. The 81 points were the most allowed by the Bearcats since Feb. 11 when Marquette torched them for 95.
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