SALT LAKE CITY (TICKER) —Tony Skinner made up for a potentially humiliating mistake.
Skinner blocked a 3-point shot by Tony Bobbitt after missing a fast-break dunk with 25 seconds remaining as Gonzaga held on for a 74-69 victory over Cincinnati in an NCAA Tournament South Region game.
Gonzaga (24-8), the eighth seed, will play top-seeded Arizona in a second-round game on Saturday.
The Bulldogs held a 70-58 advantage with 4:57 remaining before Cincinnati rallied and cut the lead to 72-69 on a 3-pointer by Taron Barker 32 seconds left.
With a chance to put the game away, Skinner drove uncontested for a layup, but his dunk banged off the rim and high into the air. Given new life, Cincinnati set up for a game-tying shot, but Bobbitt had his 3-pointer blocked by a leaping Skinner with 12 seconds left.
“I got down, this being my first NCAA Tournament game, back in the huddle, but my coaches and teammates really just picked me up and told me to make it up off a good rebound or get a defensive stop,” Skinner said. “I saw the opportunity to get the block, so I took it and got it.”
Gonzaga’s Ronny Turiaf, who collected 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, sank two free throws to account for the final margin.
Cory Violette had 14 points off the bench for Gonzaga, which helped justify its at-large berth after losing to San Diego in the championship game of the West Coast Conference tournament.
The Bulldogs may be on course for another surprising run in the NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga made the regional finals in 1999 and advanced to the “Sweet 16” in 2000 and 2001.
“I was proud we stepped up and matched their physical presence,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “Not just inside, but with the guards, too. They made a great run at us and we were lucky to hang on.”
Blake Stepp scored 12 points and Winston Brook 11 for Gonzaga.
Barker scored 16 points for the ninth-seeded Bearcats (17-12), who had won eight straight first-round games since a loss to Wisconsin in 1994. Cincinnati closed its season with nine losses in its last 13 games.
The frustration showed on Bearcats coach Bob Huggins, who was ejected for arguing and stomping his feet after a traveling call with 16 minutes left.
Cincinnati radio announcer Chuck Machock also was ejected for arguing the play. Stepp made all four free throws for the two technical fouls on Huggins, increasing Gonzaga’s lead to 51-40.
Afterwards, Huggins would not blame the officials for the loss.
“We didn’t get back on transition defense,” said Huggins, who suffered a heart attack in September. “The game turned on us when we didn’t get back. We didn’t attack the zone.”
Huggins grew increasingly irritated with the officials since his team went to the foul line just 10 times compared to 37 for Gonzaga.
The Bulldogs made 28 of their chances with Turiaf making 16-of-22.
Armien Kirkland scored 10 points for Cincinnati and was the only other Bearcat to score in double figures. Bobbitt had eight points and made just 3-of-12 from the floor as Cincinnati shot just 37 percent overall.
The Bearcats refused to quit down the stretch. A dunk by Jason Maxiell, a layup by Kirkland and the 3-pointer by Barker moved Cincinnati within three at 72-69, setting the stage for the dramatic finish.
Gonzaga humped out to an 8-0 lead in the first 1:56 on 3-pointers by Skinner and Winston Brooks and a dunk by Turiaf.
The Bearcats fought back to take their first lead at 14-13. Gonzaga led 40-32 at halftime on a 3-pointer by Skinner that beat the buzzer before intermission.
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