CINCINNATI -- Freshman Yancy Gates scored a career-high 21 points as the red-hot University of Cincinnati Bearcats opened up a 21-point lead before holding off St. John's for a 71-61 Big East win on Wednesday.
Deonta Vaughn added 14 points and Mike Williams had 12 for the Bearcats, who shot a season-high .628 (27-for-43) from the field while extending their winning streak to three games and five of their last six.
The win guaranteed Cincinnati's (17-8, 7-5) first season of finishing .500 or better in Mick Cronin's three as the Bearcats' coach. Cincinnati has just six regular-season games left and can't lose more than three postseason games.
Sophomore Paris Horne scored 20 points and sophomore Rob Thomas added 10 to lead the Red Storm (12-12, 3-9), who slipped to .500 for the first time this season with their third straight loss and fourth in their last five games. St. John's is 0-7 on opponents' home courts.