NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Otto Porter Jr. scored 18 points and No. 5 Georgetown advanced to the Big East tournament semifinals, recovering from a mid-game hiccup to beat Cincinnati 62-43 on Thursday.
Markel Starks had 14 points and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera added 13 off the bench, including a tiebreaking 3-pointer that sparked a game-turning run for the top-seeded Hoyas (25-5).
Georgetown, looking to land a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, squandered an early 16-point cushion and fell behind briefly in the second half before clamping down with its trademark defense to pull away.
Cashmere Wright scored 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range to lead the ninth-seeded Bearcats (22-11), but running mate Sean Kilpatrick was off his game. The team’s top scorer at 17 points per game, he managed only four on 2-for-12 shooting and missed all eight of his tries from beyond the arc.
After losing six of their last nine regular-season games, the Bearcats dispatched Providence 61-44 in their tournament opener Wednesday. Now, they’ll have to hope that was enough to cement a trip to the NCAAs despite their shaky finish.
JaQuon Parker had 12 points for Cincinnati, which lost to Louisville in last year’s Big East final.
The Hoyas are tied with Connecticut for the most Big East tournament championships (seven). They won the first one 33 years ago in Providence behind Eric “Sleepy” Floyd and Craig Shelton, and would love to close this era with one more to bring it full circle.
Georgetown is one of seven basketball-centric Catholic schools breaking away from the conference to create their own league, which will begin play next season and keep the Big East name. Several other member institutions are headed to the ACC, and Rutgers leaves for the Big Ten in 2014-15.
Former Georgetown coach John Thompson sat right behind the scorer’s table, next to his son’s bench.
This one was a rematch of a tightly contested Big East quarterfinal last year, won by Cincinnati 72-70 in double overtime. But the Hoyas had control most of the way this time in earning their 13th victory in the past 14 games.
Cincinnati climbed out of a 16-point hole and opened the second half with a 9-2 spurt to take a 33-31 lead, its first since the opening minutes. Nate Lubick beat the shot clock with a baseline hook to tie it, and then Georgetown took over again behind Smith-Rivera.
The freshman guard stroked a 3-pointer and a pull-up jumper during a 22-6 run that included him sneaking underneath for a nifty putback. Two free throws by Porter, the Big East Player of the Year, capped the surge and gave the Hoyas a 53-39 lead with 3:30 to go.
Cincinnati center Cheikh Mbodj went to the bench after getting whistled for his second foul with 10:59 remaining in the first half, and coach Mick Cronin drew a technical for protesting after Kilpatrick was called for a personal with 8:27 to go.
Georgetown made three of four free throws, and when Smith-Rivera followed Porter’s 3 with one of his own, the Hoyas suddenly had a 24-8 cushion.
But the Bearcats called timeout and got back in the game with some sharp outside shooting.
Wright drained consecutive 3s, Parker added another and Kilpatrick hit a jumper. When Wright connected on his third straight attempt from long range, the deficit was down to seven with 1:02 remaining. Mbodj made two free throws and the Hoyas went into halftime with a 29-24 advantage.
Georgetown, looking for its first league title since 2007, jumped out to a 15-5 lead behind eight early points from Jabril Trawick, who came in averaging 5.6 per game.
No. 19 Syracuse took on No. 17 Pittsburgh in the second game of the afternoon.
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