CINCINNATI (AP) — Two of Sean Kilpatrick’s early shots smacked awkwardly off the backboard, a sign he was still missing his touch.
Pull back? Never.
Kilpatrick kept shooting and wound up with a career high on Saturday night, scoring 36 points — seven of them in overtime — while rallying Cincinnati to a 71-69 victory over No. 25 Marquette, ending the Bearcats’ streak of three straight home losses.
Cincinnati (16-3, 4-2 Big East) pulled it out without point guard Cashmere Wright, who sprained his right knee during a 75-70 win at DePaul on Tuesday night. Without him, the Bearcats depended almost solely on Kilpatrick for points.
Even if he was way off the mark at the start.
“I’ll never stop shooting because I know my teammates and coaches have got a lot of confidence in me,” Kilpatrick said.
They didn’t even think of asking him to pass.
“He better not stop shooting!” said forward Titus Rubles, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Kilpatrick’s driving layup with 4.3 seconds left in overtime broke the final tie. Marquette’s Junior Cadougan missed a driving jumper before the buzzer.
Marquette (13-4, 4-1) managed only 13 points in the first half and never led until overtime. The Golden Eagles’ loss leaves No. 6 Syracuse as the only team still unbeaten in Big East play at 5-0. The Orange knocked off No. 1 Louisville 70-68 earlier Saturday.
Marquette had won six in a row, including two overtime games, a one-point game and a four-point game. The Golden Eagles couldn’t pull out another tight one.
“I think everyone thinks I’m exaggerating when I say every game is going to be like this, but this is our margin and this is who we are,” coach Buzz Williams said. “I don’t think that’s going to change. I think that if we’re going to win, it’s going to be a one- or two-possession game.”
Vander Blue led Marquette with 19 points. Davante Gardner scored 15 points — 13 of them on free throws, including a pair with 2.9 seconds left in regulation that tied it at 63.
Gardner also had a three-point play that tied it again at 69 with 14.8 seconds left in overtime. Kilpatrick brought the ball upcourt, saw the middle of the floor open up and drove for a left-handed layup.
It’s unclear whether Cincinnati will have Wright back for a game on Monday afternoon at Syracuse. He didn’t suit up against Marquette and walked with a slight limp as he left the court after warm-ups.
“He’s day-to-day,” coach Mick Cronin said. “If he’s out there and he’s not 100 percent, I’m not letting him play.”
For one game, the Bearcats got by without the senior point guard, who averaged 16.8 points and four assists in the last six games, shooting 51 percent from the field.
His injury put more pressure on Kilpatrick, Cincinnati’s leading scorer at 17.3 point per game. The shooting guard has been in a shooting slump lately, going only 12 of 40 from behind the arc in the six previous games.
He still didn’t have his touch at the outset on Saturday, when two of his first four shots from behind the arc smacked off the backboard. He finished 11 of 23 from the field, including 5 of 14 behind the arc.
“Cash, he’s one of our leaders,” Kilpatrick said. “I said this to the team: `We’re down a leader, and that’s something everybody’s got to do in this game. Everybody’s got to step up.'”
Cincinnati opened in a zone defense that caught Marquette off-guard — the Bearcats usually loath it. Marquette shot only 17.9 percent from the field and missed all nine shots from behind the arc while falling behind 29-13 at halftime, the fewest points the Bearcats have allowed in any half during Cronin’s seven seasons.
Cronin figured it was the best strategy against Marquette, which is one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the league.
“We’re a man-to-man team,” Kilpatrick said. “That’s probably what they were practicing for all week. They come in and we play zone, so that might have thrown them off.”
After managing only 13 points in the first half, the Golden Eagles scored 50 in the second.
Blue hit Marquette’s first 3-pointers early in the second half, making three in a row to cut the lead to 31-24. After missing all nine of their shots from behind the arc in the first half, the Golden Eagles made five of their first six in the half to close the gap.
Kilpatrick repeatedly blunted Marquette’s comeback by hitting shots. He had 25 of Cincinnati’s first 50 points. Marquette didn’t tie it until Trent Lockett’s tip-in with 45 seconds left it 61-all.