CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- With his shoulders slumped and his voice
thick with disappointment, Bob Huggins looked like the one man at
Halton Arena glad to see the series between Cincinnati and
Charlotte come to an end.
Despite being the most dominating team in Conference USA
history, the Bearcats (No. 17 ESPN/USA Today; No. 18 AP) have always struggled with
Charlotte. So it was fitting that the final regular-season meeting
between the two rivals came down to a final shot at the buzzer.
Cincinnati missed it and Charlotte came away with a 91-90 upset
over the Bearcats.
Peppered with questions about the future of the series --
Cincinnati heads to the Big East next year while Charlotte goes to
the Atlantic 10 -- and the Bearcats' upcoming schedule, Huggins let
out a long sigh.
"Is it all right if I just feel bad about this one for a
while?" he asked.
Brendan Plavich scored all but two of his 26 points on
3-pointers to lead Charlotte.
The streak shooter made 8-of-17 3-pointers to lead the 49ers
(15-4, 6-2 C-USA) in scoring. But his miss with under a minute to
play and the game tied at 89 made it tight for Charlotte.
Before the Bearcats (17-5, 6-3) could even run a play, Eric
Hicks was fouled under the basket and sent to the line with a
chance to tie it. But Hicks made just one of his free throws.
Mitchell Baldwin missed for Charlotte, giving Cincinnati one
last chance to win the game. The Bearcats took a timeout, and
inbounded the ball with 13.8 seconds to play. The ball ended up in
Armein Kirkland's hands and his jumper fell short at the buzzer.
Asked if that was the way the play was designed, Huggins took a
moment to answer.
"No," he said before a long pause. "We were trying to throw
But Charlotte had tightened up its defense on Hicks and Jason
Maxiell, preventing the Bearcats from getting under the basket.
"We didn't want Hicks or Maxiell to get it low," Charlotte
coach Bobby Lutz said. "If we could stop them, we knew we had a
Eddie Basden finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds and four
steals for Charlotte. His four steals gave him 231 for his career,
tying the conference record.
"Eddie Basden dominated the game," Huggins said.
Withers finished with 15 points and Baldwin and E.J. Drayton
scored 10 each. The 49ers were 25-for-28 at the free throw line.
"The matchup has been a lot better for us than it has been for
Cincinnati," Lutz said. "We'd love to see it continue. I don't
know what we're going to do without Cincinnati.
"All you people who hate them need to understand they bring out
the best in our team."
Students camped out for tickets, filling 9,105-seat Halton Arena
and taunting Huggins from the moment he walked out onto the court.
They even went a little too far five minutes into the game when
Lutz was hit with a technical for arguing a call against the 49ers.
As the officials stood on the court during the ensuing timeout,
a fan threw a fluorescent green football at the referee who called
the technical. It grazed the back of his legs, he shrugged it off,
and things seemed to calm down from there.
Cincinnati fell behind by eight midway through the second half
as Charlotte used a barrage of 3-pointers to build a 71-63 lead.
But the Bearcats pulled back into it behind Maxiell, who scored six
straight points and had a steal to put Cincinnati up 75-74.
But the Bearcats couldn't stretch it and quickly found
themselves trailing 88-83 after Williams fouled Basden on a 3-point
attempt. He made all his free throws as Huggins launched a verbal
tirade in Williams' direction.
Back-to-back 3s from Kirkland and White tied it up again at 89
with 1:52 to play.