Rapid Reaction: Cincinnati 87, USF 61

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NEW YORK -- A quick take on Cincinnati's 87-61 win over South Florida on Wednesday evening at Madison Square Garden:

WHAT IT MEANS: Seventh-seeded Cincinnati (25-7) used a suffocating defense and strong play inside to top No. 15 seed South Florida. With the win, the Bearcats earn a trip to the Big East quarterfinals for the second straight season. They will face a red-hot Notre Dame team on Thursday night.

The Irish, favored by many to win the tournament, have won 11 of 12 -- but if Cincinnati can duplicate its effort against South Florida on Thursday, Mike Brey's team will have its hands full. The Bearcats held a double-digit lead for the entire second half on Wednesday and limited South Florida to 36 percent shooting. The Bearcats boasts plenty of size (three regulars are at least 6-9) and have won six of seven.

No. 15 South Florida, which upset No. 10 Villanova on Tuesday night in the first round, finishes the season 10-23.

THE SKINNY: Cincinnati limited South Florida to seven made baskets in the first half, jumping out to a 32-24 lead at the break. The Bearcats slowly and methodically built on their lead after halftime. They used a full-court press to keep South Florida out of sync and got consistent production from Yancy Gates and their guards. Cincinnati shot 57 percent from the floor for the game and hit five of 13 attempts from beyond the arc.

STAR WATCH: Gates was effective and efficient, hitting 10 of 11 shots en route to a game-high 25 points. Guard Dion Dixon had 21 and hit 3 of 4 from downtown. White Plains product Sean Kilpatrick had 12 off the bench.

August Gilchrist led the Bulls with 16. He also had 16 in the Bulls' first-round upset over Villanova. Shaun Noriega, who had 22 points against Villanova, finished with just 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting.

NUMBER CRUNCH: South Florida shot 29 percent in the first half and hit just 20 shots of its 55 shots for the game. That kind of defensive effort is nothing new for Cincinnati, which held opponents to a Big East-low 58.6 points per game. That is also the fourth-lowest total in the nation.

WHAT'S NEXT: Cincinnati plays second-seeded Notre Dame at 7 p.m. on Thursday. The Bearcats lost 66-58 to Notre Dame in South Bend on Jan. 19. Ben Hansbrough and Tyrone Nash each had 13 to lead Notre Dame. Kilpatrick led Cincinnati with 16.