Gates, Bearcats have the right answer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Its 19-point lead had been chipped away to nothing, and Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates looked around at his teammates' eyes and liked what he saw.

There wasn’t any panic, only opportunity.

“That’s the way it’s got to be, and that’s the way it’s been all season for us,” Gates said. “We knew they were going to make a run, but we knew we’d be there with an answer. We're used to being in these situations. It's like that every night in the Big East."

Gates did a lot of the answering himself, as No. 6 seed Cincinnati held on to beat 11-seed Texas 65-59 in the second round of the NCAA tournament’s East Regional at Bridgestone Arena.

It was a strange game from the outset, mostly because the basket might as well have been a pin hole for the Longhorns, who were just 4-of-25 from the field in the first half.

“We were up in them pretty good, trying to make everything tough,” said Cincinnati senior guard Dion Dixon, who helped hold Texas’ leading scorer, J'Covan Brown, to 6-of-15 shooting and five turnovers.

“There were some shots that they just missed, but our defense was pretty good. It wasn’t as good as it needed to be when they made their comeback, and that’s something you can’t have. The important thing is getting stops when you’ve got to have them.”

Gates, who led the Bearcats with 15 points and 10 rebounds, made perhaps the biggest shot of the game when he absorbed contact then buried his leaning hook in the lane to put Cincinnati back on top 54-52 with just under three minutes to play.

His basket came after Texas had come all the way back from 19 points down early in the second half. The Longhorns actually had a chance to take the lead, but Brown lost the ball out front.

Gates knew the Bearcats couldn’t give the Longhorns any more openings.

“We got those stops, and we knew we had to turn those stops into some points,” Gates said.

The 6-foot-9 senior added a jumper from just inside the 3-point line to put the Longhorns away once and for all with 1:14 to play. It was almost as if Texas senior center Clint Chapman dared him to take it, and Gates didn’t hesitate.

“It was just confidence, even from teammates telling me to shoot it earlier in the game, where early in the season, I wouldn’t have shot that,” Gates said.

Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said Gates is a different player from the one who was suspended for six games after throwing punches in the Xavier brawl back in December. It's a big reason the Bearcats (25-10) have won eight of their last 10 games and are pointing toward a deep March run.

“You know, he’s come a long ways. ... He’s matured so much as a player,” Cronin said. “I’ve just got to make sure I get him rest. That’s the biggest issue at times. In the second half, I should have gotten him out earlier, and I didn’t get him early rest.”

Even with its rotten start, Texas (20-14) managed to claw its way back into the game.

But when the Longhorns had chances at the end, they couldn’t capitalize.

"Defensively, I thought we played hard throughout, but we tied the game and actually had two chances to take the lead, and sort of where our season has been, [we] turned it over and [didn’t get] a very good shot," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "But I’m really proud of the fact that these guys fought.”