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Gates leads Cincy over Mizzou in NCAA opener

Mar 18, 2011 - 5:36 AM Washington, DC (Sports Network) - Yancy Gates scored 18 points with 11 rebounds, and Cincinnati staved off a brief comeback attempt for a 78-63 victory over Missouri to open the NCAA Tournament.

The sixth-seeded Bearcats, appearing in the NCAAs for the first time in six years, moved on to face Big East rival and No. 3 seed Connecticut in the West Region.

The Huskies, after winning five games in five days to capture the conference tournament last week, had little trouble in an 81-52 win over Bucknell earlier Thursday at the Verizon Center.

"They're hot right now," said Gates. "I don't know how fresh they are, but I figure if we can hold the young guys, then we should be OK."

After about 14 minutes, Cincinnati (26-8) was pretty much in control of this one, too.

Dion Dixon added 16 points, Cashmere Wright had 11 and Sean Kilpatrick scored 10 as the Bearcats shot 54 percent from the field -- including 63 percent in the second half.

Missouri (23-11) was led by 13 points from Ricardo Ratliffe, 11 from Michael Dixon and 10 apiece from Laurence Bowers and Marcus Denmon. The team's leading scorer at 17.1 points per game, Denmon was just 3-of-11 from the field.

"Eventually you gotta put the ball in the basket. And I felt that, eventually, some of their shots started to fall," said Denmon. "We fought hard out there, but we just came up short."

Things got a little hairy for the Bearcats midway through the second half when Phil Pressey stole an inbounds pass and dished to Justin Safford for a dunk, getting Missouri within six points at 54-48.

The play capped a 9-2 burst by the Tigers. But just as soon as the fire was lit, Cincinnati extinguished it.

Gates dunked at the other end, then made 1-of-2 at the line on the following Bearcats possession. Rashad Bishop's layup punctuated the quick 5-0 spurt that gave Cincinnati an 11-point lead inside nine minutes.

Ricky Kreklow buried a three-pointer to get Missouri within eight points at 59-51, but Ibrahima Thomas' layup followed with a layup to push Cincinnati's lead back to double digits.

It went on like that for several minutes: Each time the Tigers clawed back, the Bearcats responded. The moment they took control for good was obvious.

Gates, on the left side, knocked down a three-pointer with a hand in his face to give Cincinnati a 70-55 lead with just 4:28 minutes remaining. Just 2- for-12 from three-point range entering the game, the 6-9 forward drained both of his chances Thursday.

"The second one, I don't know really. I was just in rhythm. I just felt like it was a good shot and it went in," said Gates.

The Bearcats led by 19 points soon after that, and Missouri never threatened down the stretch.

Missouri opened the game with a 9-2 run, capped by Denmon's three-pointer inside the 17:00 mark. But the Tigers shot just 29 percent in the first half and Cincinnati used 13-4 run to take a 39-28 lead at the break.

Game Notes

Cincinnati and Connecticut are two of a tournament-record 11 Big East teams in the field this year...The Bearcats improved to 41-23 in the NCAA Tournament. They are making their 26th appearance, but first since being knocked out in the second round by Kentucky in 2005, Bob Huggins' last season as head coach...Missouri fell to 22-24 in the NCAAs.