SPOKANE, Wash. — A Cincinnati dunk at the buzzer was ruled late after a review and Saint Joseph's escaped with a 78-76 victory in the first round of the NCAA Tournament late Friday night.
Isaiah Miles hit a three-pointer from the left wing with 7.3 seconds left to put the Hawks ahead.
The Bearcats elected to push the ball down court. Troy Caupain penetrated down the right side of the lane and slipped a pass to Octavius Ellis for a dunk as time expired.
After the review, the eighth-seeded Hawks (28-7) erupted and and the ninth-seeded Bearcats (22-11) slumped.
Saint Joseph's will play top-seeded Oregon, which on Friday waltzed past Holy Cross 91-52, Sunday at 9:40 p.m. on TBS.
The Hawks were up 75-74 when Ellis blocked Aaron Brown's shot from the left wing with 19.1 seconds left. The Bearcats raced back the other way and took a 76-75 lead on a dunk by Jacob Evans with 16.6 left.
After a timeout, DeAndre' Bembry calmly took the ball to the right wing, then reversed it to Miles for the three.
Bembry led the Hawks with 23 points, Miles had 19 and Brown 13.
Evans had 26 for the Bearcats, a career high for the freshman. Coreontae DeBerry also had a career-high 18.
The Hawks used an 11-0 run to grab their biggest lead, 63-51, on a puback by Miles with 11:22 to play.
But the Bearcats came back with a 20-5 run and took a 71-68 lead with 5:08 to play. Evans made three straight shots in 64 seconds, his three-pointer tying the game at 66, his jumper tying it at 68 and another three giving Cincinnati the lead.
Bembry quickly answered and Miles put the Hawks up 72-71 with a pullup jumper at the foul line at the 4:02 mark before Brown hit a deep three from the left wing that made it 75-71. That prompted a Bearcat timeout with 2:33 to play.
A three-pointer from the right corner by Farad Cobb with 1:33 to go made it a one-point game.
The first half was a high-scoring affair, which ended with the Hawks up 41-40.
It wasn't surprising for St. Joe's because Bembry was amazing, scoring 20 points. He hit 7 of 9 shots, with a particularly awesome dunk on a drive from the left wing. And he hit all three of his three-pointers, the last becoming a four-point play that made it 39-38 for the Hawks, the eighth lead change.
Caupain, who leads the Bearcats in scoring (13.2 ppg) and had 37 when they lost to UConn in four overtimes in their last game, didn't score until the last basket of the first half. In fact, the Hawks, mostly Bembry and James Demery, let him get up only three shots — the first coming just before the midpoint.
And Gary Clark, who averages 10.7 points a game, and Ellis, who averages 10.0, didn't score. In fact, they didn't even take a shot.
Caupin finished with six points, Ellis four and Clark two.
On the other hand
With two struggling starters needing help, the Bearcats received a big surprise from a big guy: 6-foot-9, 265-pound DeBerry. He came off the bench and scored 10 straight points, including back-to-back three-point plays that cut the St. Joe's lead to 29-25.
He hit all five of his shots and was 4 of 4 from the line for a career-high 14 points to go with three blocks before halftime.
Bembry personally gave the Hawks life after Cincy's 11-2 run made it 33-31, with a drive, a flush and the four-point play.
Quadri Moore, who fouled Bembry on the four-point play, went down clutching his left leg above the ankle. He stayed down for a few minutes and was helped to the locker room. He had six points and helped give the Cincy bench a 20-12 advantage. He did not return.