NCAA Division I Sports
NCAA Division I Sports
CINCINNATI (AP) – Six-foot-11 center Donald Little claims he's a good outside shooter. He got to prove it under pressure.
Little hit a wide-open 15-foot jump shot with 3 seconds to play Friday night as No. 4 Cincinnati overcame a pair of blown leads and rallied for a 63-62 victory over No. 9 Marquette.
Conference USA's top two teams played a game befitting the stakes – back and forth until it was decided in the closing seconds by Dwyane Wade's missed free throw and Little's improbable jumper.
“A conference championship was on the line,” said Little, who made all of his five shots and had 12 points. “You don't want to be the first (Cincinnati) team not to win one.”
Cincinnati (26-2, 13-1) snapped a three-game losing streak against the Golden Eagles and took sole possession of first place. The Bearcats have won each of the conference's six regular-season titles.
Marquette (23-4, 12-2) overcame deficits of 16 and 12 points, and led 62-58 with 30 seconds left but couldn't hold on.
Steve Logan hit a 3-pointer with 22 seconds left that made it 62-61, and Wade – a 70.7 percent free-throw shooter – went to the line for a one-and-one with 20 seconds remaining. He missed his first try, giving Cincinnati another chance.
The Golden Eagles smothered the Bearcats' shooters on the perimeter as they set up the final shot. The only one open was Little, who rarely shoots away from the basket.
Rather than drive to the hoop, Little thought of former Bearcats guard Kenny Satterfield, who often took – and often missed – last-second jumpers. Little had never won a game on a last-second shot.
“I caught the ball and I was thinking, 'Satterfield,”' Little said. “I don't know why that came into my head. I just shot the ball. That was my first one. There's a first time for everything.”
Cordell Henry's heave from just inside halfcourt bounced off the back of the rim as the buzzer sounded, ending a game of big runs and high drama.
“It just went their way,” Marquette coach Tom Crean said. “It turned out to be the kind of game that people were expecting to see.”
Marquette snapped Cincinnati's 20-game winning streak with a 74-60 win in Milwaukee on Feb. 2. The Bearcats countered Friday night by ending Marquette's 12-game winning streak, its longest since winning 23 straight in 1975-76.
Logan, who usually struggles against Marquette's double-teaming defense, had 19 points on 7-of-17 shooting. Wade led Marquette with 19.
It was a game of alternating spurts from the tip-off, with an intensity matching the stakes. In one telling play, Logan went after a blocked shot by hurdling a line of fans sitting courtside, including former Bearcats guard Oscar Robertson.
The first half was as up-and-down as Logan's leap.
Cincinnati fed off the loudest home crowd of the season and took a 20-4 lead in the first 11 minutes. The Golden Eagles got open shots but couldn't make them, missing 12 of their first 13.
Wade, who had 25 points in Marquette's win Feb. 2, missed his first four shots, then found his touch and led a 20-4 spurt that tied it at 24.
Wade had two layups off steals and scored 14 points in the spurt, which merely led to another one by Cincinnati. Logan hit a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer as the Bearcats ran off 10 points and led 34-24 at halftime.
Wade's driving basket started yet another run, this one a 14-point surge that ended with his pull-up jumper and gave Marquette its first lead, 40-38.
Neither team could gain a toehold the rest of the way. There were five ties and eight lead changes, with neither team leading by more than four points.
Scott Merritt's two free throws and Travis Diener's driving bank shot put Marquette up 60-56 with 1:16 to play. Logan hit a pull-up jumper, but Henry answered with a jumper to keep the lead at four.
Logan's 3-pointer cut it to 62-61 with 22 seconds to go, and Wade missed his free throw to set up the wild finish.