Rapid Reaction: Cincy 61, Providence 44

What it means: In the first of four games at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, No. 9 seed Cincinnati advanced to the Big East tournament quarterfinals, defeating No. 8 seed Providence, 61-44.

The Bearcats (22-10, 9-9) likely sealed an NCAA tournament at-large bid with the win. The Friars (17-14, 9-9) are almost certainly eliminated from NCAA tournament contention.

The turning point: Cincinnati came out with great energy at both ends of the floor, and Providence couldn't buy a bucket in the early going. The Bearcats led by as many as 18 in the first half, 26-8, after back-to-back treys by JaQuon Parker. But the Friars closed the half on a 12-3 run to get back in the game, trailing by just eight, 31-23, at intermission.

Providence scored the first four points of the second half to close within four -- but that's as close as it would get. The Friars hung around for most of the second half, but could never get within one possession. Cincinnati finally expanded its lead to double-digits again, 49-39, on Parker's conventional 3-point play with 4:15 remaining. Parker added two more free throws 20 seconds later to make it 51-39, and the Bearcats salted the game away from there.

Star watch: Sean Kilpatrick, the fourth-leading scorer in the Big East (17.3 PPG), hit his average, with 12 of his 17 points coming in the second half. Parker finished with 15 points and also had 10 rebounds. Kadeem Batts had 14 points to pace Providence.

Bryce Cotton, the leading scorer in the conference (19.6 PPG), scored just 12, shooting 5-for-17 from the field and 0-for-7 from 3-point range.

Number crunch: Providence didn't shoot as badly as South Florida did in the opening round Tuesday night -- but it was close. The Friars were 18-for-64 from the field (28.1 percent), and 1-for-16 from beyond the arc (6.3 percent).

What's next: Cincinnati will play No. 1 seed Georgetown, Thursday at noon. The Bearcats lost at home to the Hoyas, 62-55, on Feb. 15. Providence likely will receive an invitation to the NIT.