CINCINNATI -- Yancy Gates had 16 points and nine rebounds, giving Cincinnati a consistent inside scoring threat on Wednesday night, and the Bearcats built a 24-point lead before holding on for an 81-66 victory over Providence.
Cincinnati (18-8, 8-5 Big East) repeatedly drove through the Friars' half-court defense for layups, with its power forward leading the way. He had a dunk for the Bearcats' first basket, part of an opening 13-6 run.
Sean Kilpatrick had 21 points for Cincinnati, which led by as many as 24 in the second half. The Bearcats sweated out a Providence surge that cut it to 66-59 with 4:22 to go.
Providence (13-14, 2-12) has lost four in a row and eight of its last nine, dropping the Friars into last place in the Big East.
Lately, the Friars have played teams close, only to fade at the end with a lineup that has little depth -- 3-point leader Bryce Cotton averages just under 40 minutes per game, as does Council. Henton averages 38 minutes per game.
That's a lot of time on court, and it tends to show at the end.
In this one, the start was the big problem.
The Bearcats opened with the 13-6 run led by Gates and point guard Cashmere Wright, who had a driving basket, two steals and two assists in the spurt.
Cincinnati had been in a rough stretch lately, losing four of its previous six while falling to seventh in the league. The Bearcats were coming off a 95-78 loss at Marquette, the most points a Cincinnati team had allowed in nearly four years. They had little problem getting comfortably ahead of the Friars.
The Friars held down Cincinnati's 3-point shooting, but paid a price. The Bearcats found a lot of room to drive through the lane for layups, scoring 26 points in the paint while pulling ahead 41-25 by halftime. Cincinnati shot 53 percent from the field in the half.
Henton led the Friars with 14 points in the half, the only consistent threat for a team that's one of the league leaders in 3-point accuracy.
The Bearcats stretched the lead to 54-30 in the second half before Providence started hitting 3s. Council made a pair of 3s, two free throws and a fast-break layup during a 15-2 run that cut the lead to 56-45 with 11:01 left, giving Providence a spark.
Henton had a 3-pointer and a driving layup during a seven-point spurt that got the lead down to 66-59 with 4:25 left. Wright hit a pair of free throws that ended the comeback.
Forward Kennedy Meeks, who has averaged 9.4 points and 6.5 rebounds at North Carolina, has pulled out of the NBA draft and will return to the Tar Heels.
Cal big man Ivan Rabb could have been selected in the top 10 of the NBA draft. Instead, he's returning to Berkeley to make himself, and the Golden Bears, stronger.
Devin Williams' decision last month to sign with an agent and enter the NBA draft has left West Virginia in a tough spot.