|DIXON (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)|
“It’s an accomplishment for us considering everything we’ve been through all year,” Dixon said. “To make it to the Sweet 16 is just unreal.”
It’s a game few could have pictured for Cincinnati back in December after trash talking and a brawl capped a 76-53 loss to Xavier that led to suspensions. The Bearcats (26-10) now have won five of six, reaching their first Big East tournament championship game as well.
“We were so far from the NCAA tournament we couldn’t see it with binoculars,” Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. “These guys, they’re prepared to play must-win games because we’ve been playing them since Dec. 13 at Wright State.”
Sean Kilpatrick scored 18 points and Dixon finished with 15. Yancy Gates had 10 and JaQuon Parker grabbed 11 rebounds.
Florida State (25-10) had its six-game winning streak snapped. The Seminoles won their first ACC tournament title this season are heading home short of the NCAA regional semifinal they reached a year ago.
“As physical as it was, it got to the point where I mean, I think the refs had to not call a lot of things,” Florida State senior Bernard James said. “I don’t think we handled that too well, me in particular. I shot a much lower percentage than I normally shoot, especially point-blank jump hooks and layups.”
|(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)|
“They did the little things that gave them the edge to give them the opportunity to win this game,” coach Leonard Hamilton said.
This game featured 19 lead changes and 11 ties, and neither team led by more than three in the second half until the Bearcats scored seven straight points.
Kilpatrick hit a free throw to tie it at 50, then Dixon stole the ball on a careless pass from Loucks in front of the Cincinnati bench as Florida State tried to bring the ball up court. Dixon took off and slammed down a dunk to give Cincinnati the lead.
The Seminoles led 29-28 at halftime and were up by five in the first half. But a Florida State team that came into the NCAA tournament sixth in Division I holding opponents to 38.1 percent shooting couldn’t stop Cincinnati in the second half. The Bearcats hit 11 of 21 (52.4 percent) overall and 12 of 13 at the free throw line. Cincinnati had a big edge at the line (19 of 23) overall compared to Florida State (12 of 15).
Florida State had trouble holding onto the ball, too, with 13 of its 17 turnovers coming on steals by Cincinnati. The Bearcats turned those into 19 points.