CINCINNATI -- Freshman forward Yancy Gates had his second career double-double with a career-high 22 points and a career-high tying 11 rebounds Thursday night as Cincinnati held on for a 65-61 victory over West Virginia in Bob Huggins' homecoming at Fifth Third Arena.
When Huggins took the court with 2:40 left in pregame warmups, fans stood and gave him a respectful ovation. Huggins hugged Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin-- a former assistant at Cincinnati--and pursed his lips as he looked around the arena during the national anthem, fighting back emotion.
Signs saying "Thanks Huggs" on one side and "Go Bearcats" on the other were handed out to fans.
With his team huddled around him, Huggins watched a tribute to his UC career on the videoboard before the tip-off. His players then surrounded him and clasped their hands above his head as fans cheered. Huggins cried as he waved to the crowd.
"I've got enough memories to last a lifetime," Huggins said. "This is a special place. It's always going to be a special place in my heart."
Gates, who was recruited by Huggins to play at West Virginia, helped Cincinnati (18-10, 8-7 Big East) get a double-digit lead that was barely enough. He made a clinching free throw with 3.1 seconds left, drawing a huge cheer from the crowd.
It was an important win for the Bearcats, who came into the game ninth in the BIG EAST.
Alex Ruoff scored 18 points for West Virginia, but was only 3-of-15 from the field and missed a pair of 3-point attempts in the final 30 seconds.
The Mountaineers gave away their last chance when Devin Ebanks stepped on the baseline while trying to drive to the basket with 7.2 seconds left.
Gates made his first five shots over West Virginia's smaller front line, helping Cincinnati pull ahead 17-12. Gates finished with a career high in points.
"We worked on that all week in practice," said Gates, who finished 9-of-11 from the field. "We knew they were small and liked to flop a lot, so we worked on turning around and shooting the open shot."
The Mountaineers snatched the momentum by going to a 1-3-1 zone defense that confused the Bearcats and set up a 15-2 run. The back-and-forth pace held as there were five ties and nine lead changes in the game.
UC heads to Syracuse for a key tilt on Sunday, March 1, at the Carrier Dome. The Bearcats and the Orange tip at 2 p.m. and will be televised locally on Fox Sports Ohio.