No. 20 Bearcats stunned by Presbyterian
A stunning loss has Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin considering lineup changes only three games into the season.
Khalid Mutakabbir led Presbyterian's comeback from a 15-point deficit, hitting a go-ahead 3-pointer with 7.6 seconds left Saturday, and the Blue Hose pulled off a 56-54 upset of the 20th-ranked Bearcats.
''I've got a team that had a false sense of security about who we are,'' Cronin said.
The Blue Hose (3-2) trailed by 15 midway through the second half. Mutakabbir hit one big shot after another, including his 3 from the left wing that gave Presbyterian its first lead of the second half. He matched his career high with 25 points.
Cincinnati (2-1) missed an attempt to tie at the end, with Cashmere Wright's shot going off the rim. Presbyterian got the rebound, the buzzer sounded, and the celebration started at midcourt while 4,960 fans booed the home team.
The Bearcats were ranked in the preseason for the first time since 2003. A stunning collapse against a team in only its fifth Division I season provided a reality check.
''You just take it as a learning experience,'' center Yancy Gates said. ''Probably some guys think we're better than we are. Hopefully it will humble us as a team.''
After getting that 15-point lead, the Bearcats went back into a shooting slump and repeatedly broke down on defense. The Blue Hose caught them with a closing 24-7 run.
''The stuff that goes on at the last 10 minutes defensively is beyond my comprehension - beyond my comprehension,'' Cronin said. ''We're not tough enough. Really, simply, it was laziness on different guys' parts.''
The Bearcats opened the game in a 1-for-16 shooting slump and made only 35.5 percent for the game against a defense that made it tough to get an open shot when it mattered.
Cincinnati pulled out of its cold shooting stretch behind Sean Kilpatrick, who made four 3s during a 13-4 run that made it 47-34 with 10 minutes to go. In the closing seconds, Kilpatrick missed a baseline shot that gave Presbyterian its final chance to take the lead. He finished with 19 points.
''That's mostly our problem, the fact that when we do get up, we stop playing,'' Kilpatrick said. ''It shouldn't even be like that for a team like that to come back like that, and they did. It's kind of frustrating.''
Presbyterian, which moved up to Division I in 2007, is in the middle of a stretch of three games in five days. The Blue Hose already have played a role in history — their 96-55 loss at Duke on Nov. 12 gave coach Mike Krzyzewski his 902nd win, tying Bob Knight for the Division I men's mark.
Krzyzewski moved ahead of Knight with a win over Michigan State on Tuesday.
This time, Presbyterian was on the court at the end, celebrating a little of its own history — its biggest win in Division I.
For Cincinnati, it was the third of six straight home games to open the season. The Bearcats' opening stretch includes Alabama State, Jacksonville State, Presbyterian, Northwestern State, Marshall and Miami of Ohio.
This one will sting for a long time.
Cronin wasn't happy with the way his Bearcats got ahead of Jacksonville State by 27 points on Tuesday night, then relaxed. Jacksonville State went on a 15-1 run and cut the lead to 10 points before Cincinnati closed out a 73-59 win. Cronin kept his starters on the floor for the rest of the second half for some ''conditioning'' after they eased up.
Four days later, there was another letdown.
''We'll see what we're made of,'' Cronin said. ''We're in desperate need of some toughness right now.''