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Cincinnati-Georgetown Preview

AP - Sports

Georgetown and Cincinnati turned in a classic encounter last year in the Big East tournament quarterfinals.

With the last edition of this event featuring the same matchup in the same round, Hoyas coach John Thompson III doesn't want to hear about the demise of the league.

Thompson's fifth-ranked squad ended a four-game slide in the series earlier last month, leaving the Bearcats looking for revenge in Thursday's rematch at Madison Square Garden.

Georgetown (24-5) has won 12 of 13 as it tries to capture this tournament for a record eighth time and first since 2007, but Thompson isn't concerned about the future of the Big East.

"I wish you guys would stop writing obits and start looking to the future," said Thompson, whose team is in position for a possible No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. "We are looking forward and we will have Big East basketball next season and the postseason tournament will be played at Madison Square Garden with some of the best teams in the country, some of the best coaches in the country."

While the Hoyas won the inaugural tournament in 1980 and have enjoyed many enduring memories in it, Cincinnati's major highlight in this event was reaching the championship last year.

The Bearcats (22-10) won 72-70 in double overtime over the Hoyas en route to that title game, getting the winning basket by Cashmere Wright with 7.6 seconds left.

That marked Cincinnati's fourth straight victory in the series before Georgetown won 62-55 on the road Feb. 15. Markel Starks led the Hoyas with 17 points and Big East Player of the Year Otto Porter Jr. added 16.

Porter was the unanimous choice for that honor after he finished the regular season second in the league in scoring (18.1), fifth in rebounding (7.3), tied for third in steals (1.8) and second in 3-point shooting (44.1 percent).

"The Big East is the best conference in college basketball with many great players," Porter said. "To be recognized among this group, it means a lot."

While Georgetown hasn't played since a 61-39 rout of then-No. 9 Syracuse on Saturday, Cincinnati advanced to the quarterfinals with Wednesday's 61-44 rout of Providence. Sean Kilpatrick scored 17 points and JaQuon Parker added 15 and 10 rebounds.

The Bearcats have limited opponents to 37.7 percent shooting in winning three of four, holding the Friars to 28.1 percent.

"Our defensive energy was off the charts and it's going to have to be in order to continue to advance, not just in this tournament but in the NCAA tournament," coach Mick Cronin said.

While Wednesday's win boosted Cincinnati's hopes to reach the NCAA tournament, a victory Thursday can certainly solidify those chances as it would be their third over a ranked opponent.

Cronin likes what he is seeing now from his team, which allowed opponents to shoot 43.4 percent in a 1-5 stretch that preceded the last four games and included the loss to the Hoyas.

"I think our team's got their confidence back," Cronin said. "But at the same time you're playing against a team that could win the national championship so it's going to be a tremendous challenge for us."

Wright was held to six points Wednesday after consecutive 15-point efforts. Cronin said his point guard is healthier now than earlier in the season when right knee and left shoulder injuries hampered his shooting.

The winner will meet No. 17 Pittsburgh or No. 19 Syracuse in Friday's semifinals.

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