NEW YORK (AP) Octavius Ellis had back trouble but played through the pain and didn't seem to have any problem holding the MVP award for the Barclays Center Classic over his head.
''It's game time,'' the 6-foot-10 senior said after scoring nine points and grabbing seven rebounds as No. 24 Cincinnati beat George Washington 61-56 on Saturday in the title game. ''I just got to put my pain aside and just go out and sacrifice for the team.''
Bearcats coach Mick Cronin appreciated the effort.
''He's all heart. He gets big defensive rebounds,'' Cronin said. ''He's a selfless player and he made two big free throws that really salted the game away. Those were huge, huge free throws and he's playing hurt. He took a bad, bad fall last night.''
Ellis' tumble was in the opening-round win over Nebraska when he had 12 points and nine rebounds.
''It stiffened up overnight but before the game I got a lot of treatment, put a lot of heat on it,'' Ellis said. ''Every time I got subbed out, I put a lot of heat on it and put ice on it. I stayed with ice and steam on it last night so it could be well for the game.''
It was so bad Ellis ''couldn't sit down. It was hard for him to sit down in timeouts but he's got great toughness,'' Cronin said.
And about those free throws Cronin mentioned. They were huge. Even more so when you consider Ellis entered the game shooting 56 percent from the line. He was 7 for 12 on free throws in the tournament.
Troy Caupain's three-point play with 1:38 to play gave Cincinnati (7-0) the lead for good. After a missed 3 by the Colonials, Ellis scored on a tip-in to make it 57-54. Patricio Garino scored on a drive for George Washington with 29 seconds left.
The Colonials (6-1) let the Bearcats pass the ball around and they finally fouled when Ellis touched the ball with 14 seconds to play. He made both for a 59-56 lead. Two free throws by Caupain with 6.1 seconds left capped the scoring.
Caupain had 16 points for the Bearcats while Farad Cobb and Kevin Johnson both had 11.
Garino had 15 points for George Washington, Tyler Cavanaugh had 13 and Joe McDonald 11.
The Colonials finished 11 of 22 from 3-point range, not bad for a team that came in shooting 27.9 percent (29 of 104) from there. The 50 percent doesn't look so good when you consider the Colonials made five of their first six 3-point attempts and were 8 of 11 from beyond the arc in the first half. They went 16:42 between 2-point field goals but led 30-27 at halftime.
''We made a lot of 3s in the first half which kept us in the game but I didn't think we played real well except for our outside shooting,'' Colonials coach Mike Lonergan said. ''Our bigs really struggled against them.
''They did a good job of not letting us score inside. Tyler was pressing on offense and struggling to finish plays. Give them credit. ... We had to rely on our outside game. We don't really have a lot of penetrating guards.''
The Bearcats were 7 of 22 from 3-point range but their advantage came at the free throw line where they were 10 of 12 compared to George Washington's 3 of 4.
''I thought we got some good looks. I think we are one of the best teams in the country getting to the foul line, but for whatever reason we shot four free throws. They shot triple that,'' Lonergan said.
George Washington: The Colonials beat Tennessee in the opening round and they were 3 of 15 on 3s. ... George Washington was off to its best start since it was8-0 in 2005-06. ... The Colonials finished 10 for 34 from 2-point range.
Cincinnati: The win gives the Bearcats a 13-1 record against George Washington and this was their sixth straight. The last meeting was on Jan. 31, 1976. ... Cincinnati is 7-0 for the fourth time in the last six seasons. ... The Bearcats are 51-8 and have won 24 of 25 in November under coach Mick Cronin. They have won 49 straight games when scoring over 60 points. The 60th point against the Colonials came with 6.1 seconds to play.
George Washington hosts Seton Hall on Wednesday.
Cincinnati hosts Butler on Wednesday.