West Virginia pulls away from Cincinnati 66-55
CINCINNATI (AP)—John Flowers scored 16 points and led a second-half run that rallied West Virginia to a 66-55 victory over Cincinnati on Saturday night before a rare capacity crowd that came to reminisce about Bob Huggins.
The Mountaineers (14-6, 5-3 Big East) are 1-1 without leading scorer Casey Mitchell, a senior guard suspended for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Joe Mazzulla added 16 points, helping to make up for his absence.
Huggins coached at Cincinnati for 16 seasons before he was ousted in 2005. The Bearcats (18-4, 5-4) haven’t been back to the NCAA tournament since. Huggins improved to 3-2 against his former team.
With Cincinnati’s second capacity crowd of the season watching, West Virginia dominated the boards 42-30 and gave the Bearcats their first home loss of the season. Cashmere Wright led Cincinnati with 24 points, 20 of them in the second half.
The Mountaineers drove to the basket for layups or fouls and went 24 of 30 from the line. Mazzulla was 10 of 12, helping West Virginia hold on after it pulled ahead by 14 in the second half.
Huggins had an emotional homecoming two years ago. The school handed out signs saying “Thanks Huggs” and played a pregame videoboard tribute left Huggins in tears. Then, the Bearcats pulled out a 65-61 win.
There were no supportive signs or tear-drawing tributes for his return on Saturday, but no less interest. The Bearcats sold out for only the second time in two seasons—crosstown rival Xavier drew the only other capacity crowd. Otherwise, the Bearcats have been playing in a half-empty arena.
Huggins got a standing ovation when he walked onto the court before tip-off. He went behind the benches and embraced a few longtime supporters.
The game quickly got an angry edge.
There were a dozen lead changes and two technical fouls in a fast-paced first half, which ended with West Virginia ahead 33-27. Cincinnati freshman forward Justin Jackson got a technical foul for shoving Kevin Jones in the back with 3:30 left in the half. Bearcats coach Mick Cronin motioned for Jackson to leave the floor, which he did for the rest of the half.
Fifty-six seconds later, Cronin appeared to be calling for a timeout when he also got a technical foul. He angrily yelled, “What? I didn’t say anything!” and had to be pulled away from the referees by one of his players.
Wright got Cincinnati moving in the second half, scoring 10 of the Bearcats’ first 11 points. His back-to-back 3s from the top of the key put Cincinnati ahead 38-37.
That’s when West Virginia took control. Flowers had a putback, a 3-pointer and a three-point play during a 19-5 run that put West Virginia ahead to stay 57-43 with 5:43 to go. The Bearcats never got closer than 11 again.