Even though St. John's has had experience with Top 25 teams and even defeated a then No. 7 Notre Dame, the Johnnies (10-8, 1-5 BIG EAST) could not pull out a win against unranked Cincinnati.
The Bearcats (13-7, 3-4) came out on top 71-60 in a power second half led by senior guard Deonta Vaughn.
Vaughn, who scored 20 of his 23 points in the second half, was only 6-of-16 from the field but hit three treys and was 8-of 11 from the charity stripe. St. John's guard Paris Horne stayed on Vaughn through the majority of the first half, holding Vaughn to only 1-of-5 from the field and 0-of-4 from the perimeter, but seemed to get beat on Vaughn's quick dribble drive to the basket.
Despite out-rebounding the Bearcats 43-33, Cincinnati converted 21 St. John's turnovers to 21 points and saw a 20-point contribution from its bench. When the Bearcats pushed the ball up the court, St. John's, at times, was too hurried with the ball and committed unforced turnovers.
"We took ourselves out of the game by turning the ball over," said St. John's head coach Norm Roberts. "But, one thing, you can't let your bravado get the best of you. You can't."
After a missed jumper by Sean Evans, Cincinnati's Steven Toyloy grabbed the board and Vaughn hit a three with 5:47 left to the half to make the score 57-56, the Bearcats first lead since the 4:57 mark of the first half when the score was 20-23.
The Bearcats then went on a 14-2 run and stole the would-be "gimmie-game" from the Johnnies.
"Our guys showed a lot of resiliency, they battled back and I thought our press really affected the game and in the last ten minutes our defense went to another level," said Cincinnati head coach Mike Cronin. "And, in fairness to St. John's, I'm going to guess they got worn down a little bit playing guys so many minutes."
St. John's led by as much as 12 points at the 1:10 mark at the half. D.J. Kennedy, who was part of a double-ejection after 20 minutes of game play when getting tangled up with Cincinnati's Rashad Bishop, only contributed six points. But, the Johnnies could have used his second half offensive energy to pull St. John's closer to a win.
"D.J. [Kennedy] is our main scorer, he's our best defender, he gives us another body when we can sub guys in and out, so it's like as if they lost Deonta Vaughn," Coach Roberts said.
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