LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Mick Cronin's rebuilding plan at Cincinnati appears to be ahead of schedule.
Deonta Vaughn scored 13 points, including the go-ahead free throws with 1:14 remaining as Cincinnati knocked off Louisville 58-57 on Tuesday.
A year after Cronin inherited a program shaken by the departure of former coach Bob Huggins, the Bearcats (6-7, 1-0 Big East) stunned the Cardinals (9-4, 0-1) with gritty play and the kind of defensive intensity that has long been the school's trademark.
“It's not last year with football players playing,” Cronin said. “Our record is bad, but we're 25,000 times better. Those days are over.”
Are they ever.
The Bearcats held the Cardinals to 36 percent shooting - including 3-of-23 from 3-point range - to help Cronin post his first win over mentor Rick Pitino.
Cronin downplayed beating his old boss, instead focusing on his team's resiliency after posting just two conference wins a
“We wanted to get that first Big East win,” Cronin said. “We were so outmanned last year, we really didn't play in the Big East. It was unfair. Those guys didn't have a chance.”
These Bearcats, however, do. After a tough December that included narrow losses to Xavier, Memphis and N.C. State, Cincinnati kept its composure in the final minutes.
The teams traded the lead six times in the second half, and Louisville had two chances to win after Vaughn turned it over with 10 seconds remaining.