The BIG EAST Championship picture became a little clearer after five games were played on Wednesday night, but a lot more if left to be decided heading into the final weekend of the regular season. Pittsburgh grabbed a win to inch closer to a BIG EAST regular-season title while Louisville clinched a bye into the quarterfinals of The BIG EAST Championship. Cincinnati and West Virginia both earned important victories to pull into a tie for sixth place at 10-7, and Rutgers beat DePaul on the road.
Kevin Jones scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half as West Virginia (19-10, 10-7) beat No. 16/16 Connecticut 65-56 to move into a tie for sixth place and remain in contention for a first-round bye in The BIG EAST Championship. It was the first regular-season win for the Mountaineers over the Huskies (21-8, 9-8) since 2006. WVU clamped down defensively in the second half, holding Connecticut to 2-of-17 shooting over the final 10 minutes of play to outscore the Huskies 19-9. Guard Joe Mazzulla tied a career high with 18 points to lead the Mountaineers. Kemba Walker scored a game-high 22 points while Shabazz Napier added 18 for the Huskies. They were the only two Connecticut players to score more than five points in the game.
Cincinnati (23-7, 10-7) kept pace with Connecticut and Georgetown with a 67-60 road win over Marquette. The Bearcats pulled into a three-way tie for the sixth seed in The BIG EAST Championship with a 10-7 record. Guard Cashmere Wright scored 15 points while forward Yancy Gates added 11 points and 11 rebounds. Cincinnati reach double figures in conference wins for the first time since joining the BIG EAST in 2005-06 and will finish with its first winning record in league play. A 9-0 run early in the second half gave the Bearcats control, as the Golden Eagles (18-12, 9-8) never got closer than five points down the stretch. Jimmy Butler led all scorers with 30 points for MU on his senior night.
No. 4/5 Pittsburgh (26-4, 14-3) clinched at-least a share of the BIG EAST regular-season crown with a 66-50 win over USF on the road. With the victory, head coach Jamie Dixon set the Division I record for most wins in a coach’s first eight seasons with 214. The Bulls (9-21, 3-14) jumped out to a 27-24 lead at the half, using tough defense to hold Pitt to just 34.8 shooting from the floor in the first 20 minutes. Forward Jarrid Famous had a double-double in the first half of play and finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
It was a different story in the second half, as Pittsburgh outscored USF 42-23 including a 25-7 run to open the final frame. Forward Nasir Robinson had a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds while Ashton Gibbs added 16 points (13 in the second half). Pitt set a school record with seven road wins in conference play this season.
No. 11/11 Louisville (23-7, 12-5) earned a bye into the quarterfinal round of The BIG EAST Championship with an 87-60 win over visiting Providence. The Cardinals, who dropped the first meeting to the Friars this season, were led by Kyle Kuric’s 25 points and nine rebounds, while Preston Knowles added a double-double with 20 points and 10 boards. The win gave Louisville an undefeated record at home in BIG EAST play.
The Friars (14-16, 3-14) jumped out to a 16-9 lead after a Vincent Council jump shot, but the Cardinals put together a 13-4 run to a take a 22-20 lead and never looked back. Council led Providence with 20 points. It was the first time in 23 games that someone other than Marshon Brooks led PC in scoring. Brooks, the nation’s second-leading scorer, finished with 12 points.
Rutgers (14-15, 5-12) came up with a 68-64 road win at DePaul, making it certain that the Scarlet Knights will battle Seton Hall in the matchup between No. 12 and No. 13 seeds at the The BIG EAST Championship. Jonathan Mitchell scored 18 points to lead the Scarlet Knights. DePaul came within one with 31.1 seconds left following an old fashioned three-point play by Moses Morgan. But Rutgers held on, as Mitchell made a pair of free throws and Morgan missed a game-tying 3-point attempt with 19 seconds remaining. James Beatty sealed the game with a pair of free throws for the Scarlet Knights. DePaul (7-22, 1-16), which is locked-in as the No. 16 seed in the BIG EAST Championship, was led by Brandon Young’s 21 points.