SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Cincinnati’s Cashmere Wright searched for one last opening, a victory over No. 3 Syracuse within his grasp.
But when his long shot from straight on with 2.9 seconds left bounced off the rim and away, the Orange escaped with a 57-55 victory over No. 21 Cincinnati on Monday.
“I love his confidence, but I would rather have thrown the ball in the high post in that scenario,” Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said.
“It looked great,” added Sean Kilpatrick, who led Cincinnati with 21 points. “It just rolled right in and out. We needed him to take the shots he took. Great shooters aren’t going to always make every shot.”
C.J. Fair was credited with the tipped, go-ahead basket with 19.4 seconds left as the Orange rallied from seven points down with just over 5 minutes to play. Syracuse had tied it at 55 on Michael Carter-Williams’ 3-pointer from the top of the key with 80 seconds remaining, and Fair’s tip came after Jerami Grant drove the lane and missed against 6-foot-10 Cheikh Mbodj.
“They got a tip-in that we didn’t expect them to get,” said Kilpatrick, who finished 6 of 15 from 3-point range. “That’s what’s going to happen when two teams are competing like that at such a high level and everyone is going after the same rebound. We all hit it at the same time, and it just rolled right in.”
The Orange outscored the Bearcats 13-4 in the final minutes as Fair and Brandon Triche each finished with 13 points. JaQuon Parker had 11 points and six rebounds for Cincinnati, which outrebounded Syracuse 38-18, 16-7 on the offensive glass.
Wright, who sprained his right knee Tuesday in a win over DePaul and did not play in Cincinnati’s overtime victory against Marquette on Saturday, finished with five points on 2-for-13 shooting. He was 1 of 8 on 3s.
“You’ve got to give their kids credit,” Cronin said. “They never quit. They kept playing. They got the stops down the stretch and we weren’t able to get the defensive stops that they were able to get. That’s really what it boiled down to.”
Syracuse (18-1, 6-0 Big East) was coming off a 70-68 win at then-No. 1 Louisville on Saturday. The Orange, tied for third in the rankings with Kansas, are the only Big East team with an unblemished conference record.
Syracuse is 28-1 in regular-season play in the Big East in the past two years, that lone loss coming at Notre Dame exactly one year ago Monday.
The Bearcats (16-4, 4-3) had won three straight. They lost on the road for the first time in eight games, and two of their other setbacks this season were by one point.
Carter-Williams had 16 points and Grant had five points for Syracuse.
Cincinnati played the shot-clock game with its deliberate half-court approach and kept the game close despite a poor shooting performance in the opening half.
A high-arcing 3 by Kilpatrick was the fourth make in five tries from long range for the Bearcats and gave them a 36-29 lead with 13:46 left. Carter-Williams responded with seven straight points, his 3 from the top of the key making it 36-all midway through the half.
Undaunted, the Bearcats kept charging, and Kilpatrick’s last 3-pointer of the game and a layup by Mbodj completed an 11-4 spurt that gave them a 49-42 lead with 5:44 left.
Triche, whose 23 points helped boost Syracuse at Louisville, then hit two straight jumpers and fed Grant for a slam dunk to draw the Orange within 54-50 with 3:17 left.
Kilpatrick had one parting shot before leaving.
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