NEW YORK – All that Cincinnati can do now is wait.
Otto Porter Jr. scored 18 points and No. 5 Georgetown beat the Bearcats 62-43 on Thursday, shrugging off a mid-game comeback led by Cashmere Wright in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament.
After losing seven of its last 11 games, Cincinnati (22-11) is left hoping it did enough to earn a trip to the NCAAs despite the shaky finish.
"I don't know how anybody could question that," confident coach Mick Cronin said.
Wright scored 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range to lead the ninth-seeded Bearcats, but running mate Sean Kilpatrick was off his game. The team's top scorer at 17 points per game, he managed only four on 2-for-12 shooting and missed all eight of his tries from beyond the arc.
Cincinnati erased an early 16-point deficit but committed 15 turnovers and went 14 for 38 from the floor (37 percent).
"We just really struggled on offense," Cronin said. "Tough to win when you can't get the ball in the basket."
JaQuon Parker had 12 points for Cincinnati, which lost to Louisville in last year's Big East final.
Markel Starks scored 14 points and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera added 13 off the bench, including a tiebreaking 3-pointer that sparked a game-turning run for the top-seeded Hoyas (25-5).
Georgetown, looking to land a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, fell behind briefly in the second half before clamping down with its signature defense.
"I'm like, disappointed," Wright said. "I mean, when we got the lead, I felt like they just amped up their defense and just focused on certain players and just, like, baited you into doing things we regularly wouldn't do. And then we just weren't taking the open shots and trying to get better shots instead of taking the best shots."
Georgetown, looking for its first title since 2007, improved to 15-1 as the top seed in the Big East tournament. The only loss came against West Virginia in the 2010 championship game.
Porter, the Big East Player of the Year, made all 11 of his free throws — most of them in the final minutes — to offset a 3-for-9 performance from the field.
"For the most part, this group doesn't get rattled," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said.
Sitting behind the scorer's table, next to his son's bench, was former Georgetown coach John Thompson — a rather large reminder that the Hoyas are tied with Connecticut for the most Big East tournament championships (seven). They won the first one 33 years ago in Providence behind Eric "Sleepy" Floyd and Craig Shelton, and would love to close this era with one more to bring it all full circle.
Georgetown is one of seven basketball-centric Catholic schools breaking away from the conference to create their own league, which will begin play next season and retain the Big East name. Several other member institutions are headed to the ACC, and Rutgers leaves for the Big Ten in 2014-15.
"The fact that we're sitting here and this is the last Big East tournament is beyond ridiculous," Cronin said. "This is the greatest tradition in college athletics, this tournament, at one site for over 30-something years."
Cincinnati is one of three programs staying put — albeit with a yet-to-be-determined new name — in a conference that will play major college football and welcome teams like Memphis, Central Florida, SMU and Houston.
"The whole thing is tragic," Cronin said. "Nobody cares about student athletes. All anybody cares about is money. Everybody in the NCAA, in college administration, they talk about academics and student athletes. If people cared about student athletes, West Virginia wouldn't be in the Big 12 with 10 teams flying 800 miles to their closest home game. That's really conducive to studying. The whole thing is a hypocrisy. ... The money has ruined it. If I was a fan, I'd be very disenchanted."
The game was a rematch of a tightly contested Big East quarterfinal last year, won by Cincinnati 72-70 in double overtime. But the Hoyas had control most of the way this time and secured their 13th victory in 14 games.
Cincinnati dispatched Providence 61-44 in its tournament opener Wednesday. Assuming they make the NCAA tournament, the Bearcats will find out Sunday where they play.
"I do think the team getting some rest could be an advantage," Cronin said. "But we came here to win. It's not like I say, well, we're in the NCAA tournament. We don't care. We wanted to win the Big East championship. I don't like it when teams lose, and they say, well, it's no big deal. Next week is what matters. It was a big deal to us."
Cincinnati climbed out of a 16-point hole and opened the second half with a 9-2 spurt to take a 33-31 lead, its first since the opening minutes. Nate Lubick beat the shot clock with a baseline hook to tie it, and then Georgetown took over again behind Smith-Rivera.
The freshman guard stroked a 3-pointer and a pull-up jumper during a 22-6 run that included him sneaking underneath for a nifty putback. Two free throws by Porter capped the surge and gave the Hoyas a 53-39 lead with 3:30 to go.
"We're not a car. We didn't run out of gas. Couldn't score the ball," Cronin said. "We didn't get much production other than two seniors."
Cincinnati center Cheikh Mbodj went to the bench after getting whistled for his second foul with 10:59 remaining in the first half, and Cronin drew a technical for protesting after Kilpatrick was called for a personal with 8:27 to go.
"It's ridiculous. Not on my part. Anybody who was around the court knows I simply said, 'That's not a foul,'" Cronin said. "That's not a technical for every coach in the country. I think we all know that."
Georgetown made three of four free throws, and when Smith-Rivera followed Porter's 3 with one of his own, the Hoyas suddenly had a 24-8 cushion.
But the Bearcats called timeout and got back in the game with some sharp outside shooting.
Wright drained consecutive 3s, Parker added another and Kilpatrick hit a jumper. When Wright connected on his third straight attempt from long range, the deficit was down to seven with 1:02 remaining. Mbodj made two free throws and the Hoyas went into halftime with a 29-24 advantage.