CINCINNATI (AP) -- A convincing win gave No. 13 Cincinnati a
chance to play for a tournament title and make up for a total
Tony Bobbitt led a 3-point blitz that set up a 66-46 victory
over Saint Louis in the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament
The Bearcats went 5-of-6 from behind the arc during a 19-point
run in the second half, sending them to the championship game for
the third time in the past four years.
Bobbitt had four 3-pointers for a team-high 12 points. The
Bearcats (23-6) were 10-of-21 overall from behind the arc against a
defense that dropped back quickly to take away the fast break and
tried to slow the pace.
"The main thing is, we didn't want to play at the same tempo
they play," Bobbitt said.
In the other semifinal, DePaul rallied from a 16-point deficit
to beat Alabama-Birmingham 75-74, setting up a rematch between
teams that played last week. Cincinnati lost at DePaul 68-65,
costing the Bearcats a chance to win the regular-season title
Bobbitt exchanged words with coach Bob Huggins during that game,
and twice fouled a DePaul player shooting a 3-pointer. Now, the
Bobbitt and the Bearcats get a chance to show they're much better
than they looked in Chicago last week.
"We played about as dumb as any team I've ever had has
played," Huggins said. "We didn't do things very intelligently."
Five teams wound up tied for first, with DePaul getting the
tournament's top seed through the tiebreakers.
The tournament is being played at a downtown arena a short drive
from Cincinnati's campus. The Bearcats won the tournament in 1996,
1998 and 2002 -- the last two times in the same arena.
To return to the title game, Cincinnati had to beat a team that
it manhandled last month. Saint Louis (18-12) looked intimidated,
got outrebounded by 22 and lost by 25 points on Feb. 25, a defeat
so one-sided that coach Brad Soderberg compared it to boys playing
He demanded toughness from his team this time around, and got
it. All it did was slow Cincinnati for one half.
"They looked like a team that's ready to make a long run in the
(NCAA) tournament," Soderberg said. "They don't win just by being
athletic. They stuck it to us on the defensive end."
Josh Fisher led Saint Louis with 14 points. The Billikens shot a
season-low 27.5 percent from the field, including 4-of-23 from
behind the arc.
James White and Field Williams hit consecutive 3s as Cincinnati
pulled away and Saint Louis went cold early in the second half. The
Billikens missed eight consecutive shots and had three turnovers
during the decisive 19-point spurt.
Bobbitt had consecutive 3s in the middle of it -- Billikens point
guard Anthony Drejaj dove all-out to try to steal one pass to him
on the perimeter, but missed and landed hard on his chest, skidding
across the floor as Bobbitt shot. Armein Kirkland finished the run
with a jumper for a 50-30 lead.
Soderberg called a timeout to steady his team, but it was too
late. Saint Louis never got closer than 13 points the rest of the
Saint Louis drains the shot clock with a deliberate offense and
slows opponents by quickly dropping back on defense. As a result,
the Billikens allow only 58.8 points per game, the fewest in the
They imposed their pace in the first half, which ended with
Cincinnati ahead only 27-23. Demoted point guard Nick Williams got
into the game and hit a pair of 3-pointers that helped the Bearcats
build their lead to as many as eight.
In one telling moment, forward Chris Sloan held his ground and
took a bruising charge from White, showing the Billikens weren't
going to step aside this time around.
They couldn't catch up, either. Drejaj opened the second half
with a 3-pointer that cut the Bearcats' lead to 27-26, but Saint
Louis crumbled as soon as Cincinnati started hitting 3s over the
Billikens' packed-in defense.