Kilpatrick’s 21 leads No. 13 Cincinnati, 61-58

Justin Jackson added 14 points as No. 13 Cincinnati escaped with a 61-58 victory over Central Florida on Thursday.

Jim O'Connor/Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Sean Kilpatrick scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds, Justin Jackson added 14 points as No. 13 Cincinnati escaped with a 61-58 victory over Central Florida in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament on Thursday.

Kilpatrick was 6 of 12 from the field and converted 3 of 4 field goals in the final 11.3 seconds as Cincinnati defeated the Knights for the third time this season.

Kilpatrick added four assists to his night and Jackson had eight rebounds.

Isaiah Sykes led UCF with 21 points, converting 8 of 16 shots, while Kasey Wilson scored 11 points. Calvin Newell finished with 10. Both were 4 of 10 from the field, part of the Knights (13-18) shooting 38 percent for the game.

Cincinnati, the tournament’s top seed, will face the winner of the No. 19 Memphis vs. No. 21 Connecticut game.

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The Bearcats won regular-season games 69-51 on Jan. 23 and 77-49 on Feb. 19 against UCF.

UCF, the No. 9 seed, was taken to double overtime in Wednesday night’s opening round before defeating Temple 94-90, but still managed to give the Bearcats a tough game.

Cincinnati held a 45-35 lead with just under 11 minutes left and appeared on the brink of taking over the game as UCF was 3 of 11 from the field in the half at that point.

Instead, Central Florida scored the next eight points, capped by Calvin Newell’s steal and layup. Wilson converted a 3-pointer about a minute later and the Knights were within 47-46.

When Sykes converted a 3-point play after a scramble for a loose ball, the game was tied at 53 with 2:55 left.

At that point, UCF seemed to be getting many of the loose balls to keep the pressure on the Bearcats.

One trouble for both teams was the inability to convert foul shots. Jackson got a basket on a goaltend with 1:37 remaining, but couldn’t make the ensuing free throw when he was fouled — he missed all five in the game. Justin McBride missed two free throws that could have tied the game, but left it at 55-53.

When Kevin Johnson converted his second 3-pointer of the game with 36 seconds left, Cincinnati had a two-possession lead, and held on for the win.

Cincinnati had a 30-27 lead at the half behind 12 points each from Kilpatrick and Jackson, who were a combined 10 of 20 at that point. The rest of the Bearcats were 2 of 10 in the half as Cincinnati shot 40 percent.

That was better than UCF, which struggled to 36 percent, including 2 of 10 from beyond the arc. Sykes had 10 at the half for the Knights.

UCF got out to a pretty good start, holding an early lead, but Cincinnati responded with a 22-4 run to lead 26-14.

The Knights closed the half with a 9-2 burst to cut the lead down to a single possession at the break.