Lukosius, Thomas lead big second half comeback in 90-85 win over West Virginia


March is finally here.

Cincinnati had to overcome a 16-point second half deficit but the Bearcats are 1-0 in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Conference Tournament following a 90-85 win over West Virginia. 

(Photo Credit: Charlie Riedel / AP Photo)

Cincinnati defeated the Mountaineers 92-56 just three days prior in the regular season finale inside Fifth Third Arena.

"We played that game a couple days ago and it really went our way and it didn't go their way and got away from them," Wes Miller told reporters following the game.

"It's hard to get a team to recover that quickly. I think it says a lot about (Josh Eilert) that they came out and played significantly different today than they did against us Saturday."

Simas Lukosius scored a career high 31 points, while Day Day Thomas also scored a career high, with 29 points.

Luksoius scored 26 of his game high 31 points in the second half.

"Simas hit some big, big shots and I thought Day Day hit some big, big shots," said Miller

"Those guys, especially down the stretch, made some big ones."

The Bearcats made 10-of-19 three pointers in the second half during the comeback and finished the game making 16-of-38. The 16 made three's are a new conference tournament record.

Aziz Bandaogo's game high 13 rebounds helped key the Bearcats' 36-32 advantage on the boards. 

Cincinnati turned 14 offensive rebounds in to 13 second chance points and scored 14 points off nine West Virginia turnovers. 

West Virginia made 56% of their field goal attempts and 10-of-22 three-point attempts.

Five Mountaineers scored in double figures, led by Jesse Edwards' 17 points. 

"I'm really proud of my group. I didn't like the way we played for the first 28 minutes, and I really, really liked the way they responded the final 12 minutes. That's been the character of this team all season."

Cincinnati advances to meet Kansas in a Wednesday night 930 pm tip off, with the winner meeting Baylor. 

Game Recap

The Bearcats raced out to an early 10-3 lead after Simas Lukosius and Day Day Thomas made three's to key an 8-0 run that spanned 2:19.

The Mountaineers missed four consecutive field goal attempts during a scoring drought that lasted 2:46.

With 15:23 remaining in the first half, Cincinnati held a 10-5 advantage. 

Jamille Reynolds extended the UC lead to 16-9 with a put back dunk in traffic following a Day Day Thomas miss with 11:51 left on the clock.

UC would go ice cold from the field following that Reynolds put back dunk.

The Bearcats missed six of their next seven field goal attempts and trailed 21-19 with 6:46 remaining in the first half. 

WVU made 4-of-5 field goal attempts during a 7-0 run where the Bearcats failed to score for 2:27. 

Day Day Thomas ended the scoring drought with a three to put Cincinnati back on top. 

Thomas would score the Bearcats' next eight points as the junior point guard knocked down two 3-pointers and a step back jumper.

Jizzle James' jumper gave UC a 29-27 lead with 3:53 remaining in the first half.

John Newman went to the bench following the under 4 media timeout and UC would be outscored 11-4, prior to Day Day Thomas making a three to close out the half.  

West Virginia made six of their final seven field goal attempts and led 38-36 at the half.


Day Day Thomas scored 16 points through the first 20 minutes of action, including the step back three just before the buzzer to end the half. 

West Virginia opened the second half with a 10-3 run and led 48-39 following a Quinn Slazinski floater in the lane. 

The Mountaineers made their first five field goal attempts of the second half and led 52-42 with 16:35 left in the game. 

Jizzle James ended a three minute 10 second scoring drought to cut the West Va lead to 52-44 at the 14:35 mark. 

West Virginia extended their lead to 62-46 following a Josiah Harris three.

With 12:24 left in the game, WVU had made 9-of-11 field goal attempts and were also 3-of-4 from deep, 

"It felt like for a while there they didn't miss anything," Said Miller.

"When things didn't go our way, they looked a little shell shocked. I hadn't seen that from this team in a long, long time."

Cincinnati answered with a 13-2 run over the next 3:09 to cut the WVU lead to 66-61 with 9:20 left to play. 

Technical fouls on Jesse Edwards and Josiah Harris helped key the Bearcat run.

Simas Lukosius' three at the 8:02 mark gave him 16 for the second half and cut the West Virginia lead to 68-64.

Raequan Battle was called for the Mountaineer's third technical foul just prior to the under 8 media timeout, leading to four free throw attempts for the Bearcats with 7:24 remaining.

Simas Lukosius knocked down the two technical free throws and Day Day Thomas made two foul shots from the personal foul to tie the score at 68.

"We get down 16 and they said we"re just gonna play our tails off, play the way we practice every day, and they did. They started playing with a lot of pop and pace, and started to get to loose balls and we found ourself back in the game."

Lukosius would score the next six for the Bearcats to give them a 74-72 lead with 5:59 left on the clock. 

West Virginia answered with an 8-1 run to take an 80-75 lead but Cincinnati came right back with an 8-2 run of their own, including a 6-0 run over :33 seconds to regain the lead, 83-82, with 2:46 left. 

Day Day Thomas made consecutive three's to erase an 82-77 deficit. 

Cincinnati made five of their final six field goal attempts but none were bigger than the final shot that Thomas made. 

Jesse Edwards made 1-of-2 free throws to cut Cincinnati's lead to 87-85.

On the next possession, Dan Skillings drove to the lane and found Thomas for a corner three to extend the UC lead to 90-85 with :15 seconds left on the clock. 

Kerr Kriisa missed a three point attempt at the other end and Jamille Reynolds threw down a windmill dunk after the buzzer to celebrate the come from behind victory.

"My teammates believe in me making big shots," Thomas said after the game. " Shoutout Dan Skillz for making a big play at the end of the game and I just had to hit a big shot."

Key Stats and Notes:

How good were Thomas and Lukosius in the second half? The duo combined to make 9-of-14 shots from deep, while also making all 10 free throw attempts. Lukosius made all eight free throws, including two to give Cincinnati an 87-84 lead with 1:00 remaining. 

- Both Bandaogo and John Newman fouled out. Newman finished with just three points on 1-of-5 shooting but him going to the bench with 3:53 remaining in the first half was a primary factor in West Virginia turning a two point deficit in to a five point lead with :19 seconds left in the first half. Seven of Bandaogo's 13 rebounds came on the offensive end.

- West Virginia shot 51% in the first half and near 59% in the second half. The Mountaineers finished with 16 points in the paint, compared to 10 for Cincinnati. 

- Dan Skilings finished with 13 points, 5 rebounds. More importantly, the sophomore had just one turnover in 37 minutes. His layup with 1:24 left gave the Bearcats an 85-84 lead.

All five Cincinnati starters played more than 26 minutes. In a win or go home situation, it was clear that Miller wanted to go with his best five as long as possible. 

Final thoughts:

The 16 point comeback matched the largest comeback by a Wes Miller team, The Bearcats also came back from a 16 point deficit to Illinois in the same arean two years ago. 

This team is far from perfect but they have the right pieces, care, and confidence to make a run in this tournament. Simas Lukosius stated following the game that the players believe they are playing their best basketball of the season right now. Kansas will be without Hunter Dickinson and CJ McCollum tomorrow night, their two leading scorers. UC will have an opportunity to pick up a win over a name brand and must take advantage of the opportunities that are ahead of them if they want to solidify themselves as a team that hears their name called on Selection Sunday. 

Post game video:


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