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St. Joe’s survives Cincinnati on waved-off, game-tying dunk

No. 8 St. Joe’s survived vs. No. 9 Cincinnati on Friday when a potential game-tying dunk was waved off at the buzzer

What happened

Saint Joseph’s handed Cincinnati its second heart-breaking loss in a row. After Isaiah Miles hit a three with 11 seconds left to give the Hawks a two-point lead, Cincinnati pushed the ball down the floor to Octavius Ellis, who had a game-tying dunk at the buzzer. The refs ruled it good in real time.

Upon further review, it was ruled that Ellis dunked after the buzzer sounded.

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Saint Joseph’s won, advancing to the second round while Cincinnati’s season and Ellis’s college career ended. The Hawks beat the Bearcats, 78–76, one game after Cincinnati lost in four overtimes against Connecticut after Huskies guard Jalen Adams made a three-quarters court heave at the end of the third overtime to force a fourth one.

DeAndre’ Bembry scored 20 of his 25 points in the first half as Saint Joseph’s took a 41–40 lead into the break. Cincinnati countered with Jacob Evans III, who scored a game-high 26 points with several clutch shots down the stretch, and Coreontae DeBerry, who scored a career-high 18 points.

On three consecutive possessions, Evans III scored a game-tying or go-ahead basket, but Saint Joseph’s found an answer every time, none bigger than Miles’s three.

Why it matters

Four Cincinnati seniors had their hearts ripped out against UConn in the American Athletic Conference tournament, then licked their wounds, regrouped for the NCAA tournament and then had their hearts ripped out again. This game was March at its best and worst: great competitive spirit from both sides but for some, it was their final time in a college uniform.

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Looking at the bigger picture, this 8–9 game may have meant more to each team’s respective conference than most first-round matchups. The American Athletic and Atlantic 10 conferences are regarded as second-tier conferences nationally. With just four and three tournament teams, respectively, each tournament game is crucial to how the conference is viewed nationally.

When Saint Joseph’s-Cincinnati tipped off, only one team from each conference remained in the field. The A-10 now sends VCU and Saint Joseph’s to the second round, while the AAC is only represented by UConn. All three of those teams will play a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the second round, creating difficult paths for the two conferences to advance to the second weekend.

What’s next

No. 1 seed Oregon awaits Saint Joseph’s. The Ducks had the largest margin of victory of any first-round matchup—39 points—in their win against Holy Cross, led by Chris Boucher’s 18 points. Nine players scored at least six points and Oregon had a plus-16 rebound advantage on the boards.

Saint Joseph’s looks to advance to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004 while Oregon looks to do so for the second time in four years.

A No. 11 and No. 12 seed have already won in the West, and the Hawks hope to keep the upset trend with a win on Sunday.