By Ryan Roberts
Cincinnati, OH- After a disappointing 69-48 loss to Houston in the conference semi finals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament , the Bearcats learned on Sunday that they would be making their 11th all time appearance in the National invitational Tournament. The Cats received a 4 seed and match up against the Virginia Tech Hokies in one last game at Fifth Third Arena. The Hokies entered Wednesday night's match up with a 19-14 record after an 8-12 finish in Atlantic Coast Conference play.
The Bearcats used an early 10-2 run to take a 10-5 lead with 16:22 remaining in the first half but were outscored 28-19 the rest of the way. Virginia Tech got 18 points from the front court duo of Grant Basille and Justyn Mutts as the Hokies led 33-29 at the end of the first half. Hunter Cattoor made a layup with 2 seconds on the clock after Landers Nolley picked up his third foul of the half to give Virginia Tech their largest lead of the half. In what was a back and forth match up between the two, neither held more than a 2 point lead after Cincinnati's initial 10-2 run to open the game.
The Bearcats made zero threes in the first half and seemed to be out hustled for the most part as Virginia Tech had a 12-6 advantage in second chance points and 9 points off 6 UC turnovers.
The second half was a different game for the Cats. Virginia Tech extended their lead to 6 twice in the opening 2;22 of the second half but Cincinnati responded. A Hunter Cattoor three pointer at the 17:38 mark gave the Hokies a 40-34 lead and seemed to wake Wes Miller's squad up. Mika Adams-Woods scored 5 points over the next 3 minutes during a 14-6 run to give Cincinnati a 48-46 lead with 14:38 left to play in the first round of the NIT.
The run was answered by Virginia Tech's Cattoor, who hit another 3 at the 13:02 mark of the second half. That 3 would be Virignia Tech's last lead of the game. Jeremiah Davenport came back down the floor and answered Cattoor's 3 with a 3 of his own and the Cats never trailed again.
Virginia Tech was able to make things interesting at the 6:01 mark with a Rodney Rice layup that tied the score at 63, but Jeremiah Davenport responded with another three to extend the lead back to 3, 66-63, 18 seconds later.
Virginia Tech was able to get multiple good looks down the stretch with Cincinnati clinging to a 4 point lead over the final 3:35, but Dave Dejulius closed things out and finished the second half with 14 of his game high 21 points to go along with 17 assists.
Landers Nolley finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds against the team that he originally committed to out of high school, while Jeremiah Davenport scored 12 points in the 81-72 win. Mika Adams- Woods and Ody Oguama both reached double figures with 10 points each.
Virginia Tech was led by Justyn Mitts 19 pts, 6 rebounds and Grant Basille's 17 points, 7 rebounds. Hunter Cattoor scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half.
Other Key Stats:
- Cincinnati outscored Virginia Tech 52-39 in the second half, making 6 of 14 three point attempts
- UC out rebounded Virginia Tech 42-29 but Virginia Tech won the battle of points in the paint, 42-36
- Hokies turned 10 Bearcat turnovers in to 15 points
- UC was 17 0f 20 from the FT line. Virginia Tech was 6 for 8.
With the win, Cincinnati improves to 22-12 on the season and will advance to the NIT second round against Hofstra. Virginia Tech ends their season 19-15.