CINCINNATI – Point guard Cashmere Wright scored 22 points, matching his career high with six 3-pointers, and Cincinnati pulled away from No. 17 Louisville 60-56 on Thursday night.
Cincinnati (20-8, 10-5 Big East) went 11 of 27 from behind the arc, a place where Louisville (21-7, 9-6) has prospered. The Bearcats' fifth win in six games broke a tie with the Cardinals for sixth place in the conference.
Sean Kilpatrick had 12 points, including baskets that started and finished a 14-point run that put the Bearcats ahead to stay midway through the second half. Cincinnati improved to 4-3 against ranked teams this season.
The Cardinals had won seven of their last eight, making 3s at a prodigious rate lately. They lost their touch Thursday, going only 1 of 14 behind the arc. Leading scorer Kyle Kuric missed all of his 11 shots from the field, including a potential tying 3 with 19 seconds left.
Gorgui Dieng had 11 points and 13 rebounds for Louisville, but picked up his fourth foul with 10:54 left, helping the Bearcats in their decisive run.
Cincinnati won the rivalry game 63-54 last season, an impressive victory that started its surge toward the first NCAA tournament appearance since 2005. The Bearcats need another late surge to get there again, including a few impressive wins over quality teams to help make their case with the selection committee.
This one represented a good opportunity.
The student sections behind each basket dressed in black to show support for the team, which was wearing all-black uniforms. Cincinnati's coaches dressed in all-black as well, with coach Mick Cronin sporting an open-collar black shirt.
Kilpatrick went to the scorer's table and raised his arms before the tip-off, trying to get as much home-court advantage as possible from the crowd of 13,176 — only the Bearcats' second sellout of the season.
There were three ties and eight lead changes in the first 10 minutes, with neither team ahead by more than four points. Wright made four 3s in five attempts to keep the back-and-forth pace.
Power forward Yancy Gates hit consecutive bank shots during a 7-2 spurt that gave Cincinnati a 29-22 lead with 4:20 left in the half.
The Bearcats turned things around on Louisville, going 8 of 19 from behind the arc in the first half for a 32-30 lead. That was more 3s than the Bearcats had made in four of their last five games, and it made up for a 33 percent shooting percentage overall from the field.
By contrast, Louisville was only 1 of 4 from behind the arc in the half, more intent on taking the ball inside for dunks and floaters.
Russ Smith had two driving bank shots and two free throws during a 15-4 run that put Louisville ahead 45-39 with 12:16 left, the Cardinals' biggest lead to that point. Dieng had 11 points and 10 rebounds by then, but picked up his fourth foul with 10:54 to go.
That coincided with a 14-0 run Cincinnati run that began and ended with baskets by Kilpatrick and put the Bearcats ahead 53-45 with 6:36 to go.
Cincinnati's missed free throws gave Louisville a chance to tie, but Kuric was off on his 3 from the top of the arc. Dion Dixon and Gates made a free throw each to make the lead hold up.