Created on Wednesday, 13 February 2013 Written by JOE KAY,AP Sports Writer
CINCINNATI (AP) — The ball got knocked loose near the basket, and the floor was soon covered in Bearcats diving on their chests to try to come up with it. Three Cincinnati players hit the floor hard, eventually getting the ball and sending a message.
The Bearcats weren't messing around anymore.
Sean Kilpatrick and JaQuon Parker scored 19 points apiece, and Cincinnati turned up the defensive pressure and emerged from a two-game slump by beating Villanova 68-50 on Tuesday night.
"Honestly, we attacked the ball today on defense and did a lot of trapping and a lot of rotations," Kilpatrick said. "Everyone was active. We came into this game today not even thinking about offense. Everyone came in with a defensive mindset."
Cincinnati (19-6, 7-5 Big East) had lost its last two games with lousy shooting and soft defense. The defense is what bothered coach Mick Cronin the most.
"Any player will tell you this: You cannot play offense and you're worried about missing," Cronin said. "Just shoot the ball. You can't think, 'Aw man, I missed the last one,' or, 'We're struggling on offense.' We were still going to win if we scored 58 because our defense was off the charts."
That three-player pile-up told the story.
"The past four games, nobody on the team has dived on the floor at all," point guard Cashmere Wright said. "(Cronin) was like, 'So how are we supposed to win? If we're not the hungrier team, how are we going to win?' That's our staple. We're known for playing hard defense and diving on the floor and coming up with the ball."
This time, they got a little offense, too.
Cincinnati has relied on Kilpatrick for most of its offense lately with Wright on the mend from an injured right knee and left shoulder that will need surgery after the season. Kilpatrick has averaged nearly 21 points over the last seven games, leading the Bearcats in scoring each time.
Wright had 11 points on 3-of-14 shooting, his second-best point total in his last seven games.
Villanova (15-10, 6-6) had won its last two games with high-percentage shooting. The Wildcats had a tough time getting open against Cincinnati's trapping defense and turned it over 19 times. JayVaughn Pinkston led Villanova with 12 points.
The Wildcats went only 3 of 13 behind the arc and 7 of 15 on free throws.
"Their defense was outstanding, and offensively their guards were outstanding," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "Their guards just dominated us. I think it was their team defense, and then we had no answer for their guards."
The Wildcats were coming off one of their best defensive games, a 68-40 win over South Florida on Saturday that represented the fewest points Villanova had ever allowed in a Big East game. Cincinnati turned the 19 turnovers into 21 points as it pulled away.
Villanova's offense had been at its best in the previous two games as well, shooting over 50 percent from the field both times. The Wildcats had made more than half their shots only twice in the previous 22 games.
Their offense never got into a flow, scoring only 21 points in the second half.
Cincinnati was coming off low-scoring, back-to-back losses that dropped it out of the Top 25. The Bearcats lost 54-50 at Providence, throwing away a chance at a final shot when Kilpatrick lost his dribble, then went the final 9 minutes, 21 seconds without a field goal in a 62-52 home loss to Pitt last Saturday.
Kilpatrick missed all seven of his shots in the second half of the loss to Pitt. He was cold at the outset on Tuesday, missing his first four shots from behind the arc. His back-to-back 3s — one from the left wing, the other from the right — helped Cincinnati pull ahead 32-24 in the first half.
Villanova cut it to 32-29 at halftime with a weird play. Ryan Arcidiacono picked up a loose ball by the sideline and flipped it toward the basket. Pinkston caught the ball and flipped it into the basket just before the buzzer.
The Bearcats' defense started taking a toll in the second half. Villanova missed seven of its first eight shots and had six turnovers in the first 7 minutes. Kilpatrick's three-point play and Ge'Lawn Guyn's floater in the lane made it 44-33, the first double-digit lead of the game.
Wright's second 3-pointer of the game pushed it to 53-37. Villanova never got closer than 12 the rest of the way.