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Free throws difference in Bearcats' victory

The SportsXchange

NEWARK, N.J. -- Cincinnati isn't known for its free-throw shooting among Big East teams, but it was its ability to get to the line and convert.

That was the difference in Saturday's 65-59 win over Seton Hall before a matinee crowd of 6,961 at The Prudential Center.

The No. 24 Bearcats (18-4, 6-3 Big East) were 21 of 27 from the stripe, compared to just 11 of 18 by Seton Hall. Cincinnati entered the game next to last in free-throw percentage in the 15-team conference at 64.9 percent.

The 6-3 start in conference play for Cincinnati is its best since it entered the league in 2005 and provided coach Mick Cronin with his 200th career victory.

"All I care about is 18," Cronin said. "We're at 18 and we have nine to play."

Sean Kilpatrick led the Bearcats with 21 points and Cashmere Wright contributed 17 points, including going 7 of 7 from the line.

"I thought we should have got to the line more but that's life on the road in this league," said Cronin. "We got the big lead too soon. I knew we would cool off eventually. I have veterans. (Seton Hall coach) Kevin (Willard) doesn't."

Cincinnati started three seniors and two juniors, while Seton Hall is undergoing growing pains with no seniors on the roster. Guard Kyle Smyth is a post-grad for the Pirates.

Fuquan Edwin, a junior, and sophomore Brandon Mobley paced Seton Hall (13-9, 2-7) with 16 points apiece. The Pirates have lost seven of their last eight games and are 1-3 at home in Big East Conference play.

Cincinnati used a 15-0 run to open the second half to pull away, 48-28. The Pirates didn't score a field goal until almost seven minutes had elapsed in the second half.

"We talked about how the last three minutes of the first half have doomed us and the first four minutes of the second half have doomed us," said Willard. "It's really been our biggest issue."

Kilpatrick was a catalyst for the Bearcats in the run, draining two of his five 3-pointers. Cincinnati was 4 of 4 from the line in the 15-0 run.

Seton Hall mounted a late comeback, getting to within four at 56-52 with 3:30 to play, but the Bearcats went on a 7-0 blitz to move ahead 63-52 with 34 seconds remaining. Kilpatrick's wide open 3-pointer got the run going.

"When it's a lead like that (20 points), we have to keep attacking," Kilpatrick said. "We can't relax, especially on a Big East team."

Kilpatrick didn't enjoy a particularly good shooting day from the floor, going 8 of 19, but still had the confidence of his coach.

"Coach (Cronin) always tells me to keep shooting and I do and against a zone like they play there will be a lot of wide-open 3-pointers and we have a lot of guys who can make that shot," Kilpatrick said.

Normally a good-shooting team from long range, the Pirates converted just 2 of 10 of their 3-point attempts in the first half. Cheikh Mbodj controlled the low post, blocking four shots and limiting Seton Hall centers Kevin Johnson and Eugene Teague to just six points combined.

The Bearcats snapped a 28-28 deadlock by going on a 5-0 run to end the first half on a 3-pointer from Wright and a layup by Kilpatrick.

Notes: Seton Hall honored the 1992-93 team on the 20th anniversary of winning the Big East Conference regular season and tournament titles, the only time the school has accomplished the feat. ... Cronin is 131-92 with the Bearcats and 69-24 with Murray State... Mbodj has 54 blocks this season.
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