Cincinnati 84, BYU 59
SAN DIEGO — As it turned out, BYU's first NCAA Tournament appearance in six years was not worth the wait.
Cincinnati took all the fun out of the Big Dance for BYU. The Bearcats waltzed past the Cougars, 84-59, in a first-round West Region matchup at Cox Arena.
A memorable season for BYU ended with a loss it would like to forget. While the Cougars did little right Thursday night, the Bearcats did little wrong. "We could have played well," said coach Steve Cleveland, "and still not won."
Yes, No. 5 seed Cincinnati looked good. Final Four good. And No. 12 seed BYU looked like, well, a No. 12 seed.
On only one other occasion — a blowout at Arizona State in December — had the Cougars been so thoroughly dominated this season.
BYU completed the campaign with a 24-9 record — its best mark in eight years — while Cincinnati improved to 24-9 and earned a second-round game with Kent State, which upset Indiana earlier in the day.
The Mountain West Conference champion Cougars hardly threatened the Conference USA champ Bearcats. Nate Knight gave BYU a 2-0 edge on a layup.
The Cougars did not lead again.
But it wasn't until Cincinnati went on a 28-9 second-half run, which included a barrage of five 3-pointers, that it put the game out of reach, 63-39.
"It seemed like we came out with a lot of energy, but they hit a few quick baskets, and we fell behind," said BYU guard Terrell Lyday. "Everybody kind of hung their heads a little at that point."
The Bearcats drilled 11 3-pointers — the most made against the Cougars this year. Cincinnati shot 57 percent from the field in the second half and 58 percent on 3-pointers for the game.
"We allowed them to make some baskets," Cleveland said. "I'm not sure we 'allowed' it. We contested three or four of those 3-pointers from 23 feet and they still knocked them down."
Bearcat guard Steve Logan, the Conference USA player of the year, hit four treys, and forward Antwan Jones hit three. Logan collected 21 points, and Kenny Satterfield, the Bearcats' other sensational guard, had 14.
Forward Mekeli Wesley scored a game-high 25 points, but those were probably the toughest 25 points of his four-year career. Cincinnati sicced two players on him every time he touched the ball.
"It was a pretty hard double-team they were putting on," Wesley said. "It seemed frustrating to pass out of it because I could see guys open, but the defenders had their arms up and I couldn't make a pass through it. It made me play a bit tentative at first."
"The thing is (about the double-team), they can rotate out of it so quickly," Cleveland said. "He had two 6-foot-11 post players right there, and it made it very difficult for us to get our rotation and make the extra pass."
BYU simply had trouble with the Bearcats' quickness. "It bothered us quite a bit," said Trent Whiting, who finished with 12 points. "They were really physical with us and tried to pressure us a lot and not allow anything out front. It took us out of our game in the initial five or six minutes."
"Everything was going against us," said BYU's Terrell Lyday, who also scored 12 points. "Sometimes it happens like that."
Even though the Cougars were not sharp in the first half, they trailed by only five points at halftime, 35-30.
But in the second half, the Bearcats lowered the boom. Early on, Lyday, an 80 percent free throw shooter, missed two free throws and picked up his third personal foul on a charge.
That's when the complexion of the game changed as Jones, Satterfield and Logan then hit back-to-back 3-pointers.
"We haven't been down by 18 or 20 points in two months," Cleveland said.
Now, the Cougars will have about six months to think about their brief stay in the NCAA Tournament.
NOTES: Attendance was 10,974 . . . Cincinnati's Bob Huggins had moaned earlier in the week that he had the worst rebounding team team he had coached in 20 years. The Bearcats outrebounded BYU 32-24 . . . By beating BYU, Huggins earned his 300th win at Cincinnati. It also marked the 1,400th victory in school history in 100 years of competition . . . The Bearcats are now 9-1 in first round games under Huggins . . . For the Cougars, it was their worst NCAA Tournament loss since a 93-68 second-round defeat to Kentucky in 1984.