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December 1, 2012

Cincinnati beats Alabama on buzzer-beater

CINCINNATI | It was Cashmere Wright's 12-foot fall-away jumper at the buzzer that gave No. 17 Cincinnati a 58-56 win over Alabama on Saturday in the SEC/Big East Challenge at Fifth Third Arena, but it was the missed chances by the Crimson Tide that stung.

Alabama held a two-point lead on four occasions with a chance to stretch it in the second half, only to be turned back by the Bearcat defense. That allowed Cincinnati to hang around on its home floor.

It was the Crimson Tide's first loss of the season in its first true road test. Alabama (6-1) fell to 0-3 in SEC/Big East Challenge.

Wright's off-balance game-winner came after the Crimson Tide erased a double-digit deficit in the first half and turned the game into a hard-fought contest in which both teams gave up little defensively.

"They're the best defensive team in the country," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. "They did a great job defensively creating turnovers. They're very aggressive, rebound the ball extremely well. We knew we had to rebound the ball well and defend."

Alabama went up 56-54 on a Trevor Releford layup with 48 seconds left, but Sean Kilpatrick matched it six seconds later and was fouled. After a timeout, Kilpatrick missed the free throw.

Looking for the go-ahead basket, Releford was blocked in the paint by 6-foot-8 forward Justin Jackson, and Ge'Lawn Guyn grabbed the rebound to set up the game-winning shot.

"We called a flat ball screen and we were just looking to make a play there," Grant said. "Releford thought he could make around the corner, but Jackson is a great defender and made a heck of a play and kept it in bounds."

With 6 seconds left, Wright took the ball in the backcourt, raced to the left corner and launched an arching shot over Moussa Gueye that found the net as the buzzer sounded.

"I didn't see the shot go in," Wright said. "They started grabbing me after the shot, and that's when I thought 'Well, it must have gone in.' "

Grant said he thought his team did everything right on the final sequence and it was a matter of Wright making the big play.

"They went with four guards and a forward," Grant said. "I thought we contested the shot, but he's a hell of a player and won the game for them."

Before the final minute drama, Alabama had a chance to put some distance between itself and Cincinnati (7-0).

A Nick Jacobs basket gave the Crimson Tide at 52-50 lead with 5:39 left, and after making stops on the defensive end, Alabama had four chances to stretch the lead to two possessions, only to be turned back by the Bearcats on each possession.

"I thought that was critical," Grant said. "We had good looks, but I think they altered or blocked shots in that stretch. We had a couple of opportunities but just turned it over. We had a two-on-one and threw it away. Credit their defense. They have great length and were able to make up for mistakes with their athleticism."

Trevor Lacey led the Crimson Tide with 16 points, followed by Releford's 12. JaQuon Parker and Kilpatrick topped Cincinnati scorers with 13.

"Alabama has a very good team and their guards are better than advertised," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. "They can stack up against anybody we'll play this season. They did a good job of keeping us off the fast break. We can't let teams take that away from us. Everything that happened to us, they had a lot to do with it."

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