Wow. If you missed the Bearcats game at Syracuse yesterday you missed a lot. Jamelle Elliott's Bearcats led at the end of the first half 28-21. They then lead by 13 in the second half, only to watch the Orange battle from behind, tie the game and take a 5 point lead with 37 seconds remaining. Down 5, the Bearcats drove the lane, got a bucket from Michelle Jones, who also drew the foul, but missed the free throw. Needing a little help, Syracuse missed the front-end of a one-and-one and the Bearcats were able to use their final timeout to draw up a play for a potential game-tying 3. With Shareese Ulis the hot hand, I figured the ball was going to her or veteran Kahla Roudebush. The staff drew-up the perfect play, the 'Cats executed it to perfection and with six seconds remaining, Ulis launched a 3 from the right wing that clunked off the back of the rim and appeared the sink the Bearcats hopes of a road victory. Just when all hope was lost, sophomore Val Schuster corralled the lose basketball, drew a foul and got the Bearcats the ball on the baseline with a hair over 4 seconds remaining.
That's when things got interesting. Syracuse called timeout (remember UC had no timeouts remaining at this point.) With a three point lead and very little time remaining, you would assume the Orange may foul and not even give the Bearcats a chance to tie the game. That didn't happen. Instead the Orange played great defense on the baseline and the Bearcats got the ball back to Ulis who stepped back from 30-feet and drained a huge 3 to tie the game as time expired. They reviewed the play, but as you can see from the picture below, there was no question the ball was well out of her hands before the lights went on.
With the game tied at 57, the 7th meeting between the Orange and the Bearcats went to overtime and Cincinnati took control, taking a four point lead late thanks to two Schuster free throws and closing out their second overtime, road, BIG EAST win this season.
This win is a big for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it's the fourth conference with this season for the Bearcats, their third on a road. Coaches often tell me how difficult it is to win on the road in BIG EAST play. It certainly has not been easy this season, but that hasn't stopped Elliott's troops from scoring three wins away from Fifth Third Arena.
To understand just how impressive this feat it, let's look at the conference standings through Sunday, Feb. 14th. At 4-7, the Bearcats currently stand in 12th place. However, they are just one game back from 7th place with five games left on the regular season slate. With three road wins, the Bearcats have as many or more road BIG EAST wins than 12 other conference teams. Included among those 12 teams:
- West Virginia - 3 road wins, ranked #8 in the nation
- St. John's - 3 road wins, ranked #24 in the nation, a team the Bearcats beat at home
- Louisville - 1 road win, national runner-up last season
- USF - 2 road wins, WNIT Champion last season
- Pittsburgh - 1 road win, NCAA tournament team last season
With five regular season games remaining, the Bearcats will face four teams (Providence, Villanova, Pittsburgh and Marquette) they are directly competing with for seeding in the BIG EAST Conference Tournament.
Before they can worry about anyone else, the team turns their eyes to Providence. They bused to Rhode Island last night immediately following the game and returned to the court for practice this morning. If the road warriors can pull one off Tuesday night, they can position themselves for a great run in the final quarter of the regular season. In the meantime, it is a very happy Valentines Day here in Providence.
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