New York, NY – The fourth-seeded Cincinnati Bearcats will try seeded Syracuse Orange as they meet in the semifinal round of the 2012 Big East Conference Tournament at Madison Square Garden to determine one half of the championship game.
Whichever team survives this bout will be awarded a spot in Saturday's championship game versus either Louisville or Notre Dame.
Just like every other team besides Notre Dame, Cincinnati came up short in its attempt to defeat Syracuse this season. The Orange managed to tame the Bearcats in Fifth Third Arena and pick up a 60-53 victory by outscoring UC in the paint, 36-23, and holding it to 34.4 percent shooting. Syracuse has won its last four contests versus Cincinnati and holds a 7-2 lead in the all-time series.
Cincinnati will be riding the momentum of a thrilling 72-70 double-overtime victory over the Georgetown Hoyas in Thursday's quarterfinal round. Although coach Mick Cronin is happy that his team is still alive, he certainly spotted room for improvement. The Bearcats had a dreadful long-range shooting performance on Thursday, as they connected on only 9.5 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc. Their shooting woes from distance have now persisted in for three straight games, as they have now gone 9-of-60 from outside during that span. Cincinnati was also beat in the rebounding battle, 45-41, by the Hoyas. Despite their faults, the Bearcats managed to beat a very talented Georgetown squad, which was their sixth win in eight tries over a top 25 team this season.
Syracuse rallied past the defending NCAA Champions on Thursday and hung on for a 58-55 victory over UConn to pick up its 11th win in a row. While the Orange lost the rebounding battle 46-34 to UConn, they submitted another excellent defensive performance which resulted in the red-hot Huskies shooting 34.4 percent in the contest. Although Syracuse's 38.5 percent connection rate from the floor was not dazzling, Jim Boeheim has to be pleased his squad only committed four turnovers in its quarterfinal battle. Syracuse has been able to rack up its near perfect record by exhibiting magnificent play on both ends of the floor this season. The Orange are second in the Big East in scoring with an average of 74.8 ppg, while they rank third in scoring defense (60.1 ppg).
The Bearcats were pushed past the Hoyas by their senior big man Yancy Gates as he scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds while battling GU's star center Henry Sims. As expected, guards Dion Dixon, Sean Kilpatrick, and Cashmere Wright all scored in double-figures for Cincy as well. Dixon still will need to bounce back, as he went 4-of-17 from the field in the win. Wright made some crucial plays on both ends and also recorded five steals.
Dion Waiters came up big for Syracuse in its quarterfinal match. The sophomore guard netted a game-high 18 points, while Kris Joseph and James Southerland chipped in 10 points apiece. Center Fab Melo did not play in the Orange's regular season game versus Cincinnati. His presence in the middle of Syracuse's 2-3 zone will be an obstacle for the Bearcats.