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Cincinnati holds on to beat DePaul 75-70

ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) — Cincinnati didn't need senior guard Cashmere Wright for all 40 minutes against DePaul on Tuesday night.

Cincinnati-DePaul-Bas Sidd

Cincinnati guard Sean Kilpatrick (23) shoots over DePaul forward Donnavan Kirk during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, in Rosemont, Ill. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The Bearcats scored a 75-70 victory after trailing by 11 points just five minutes into the game.

But they wanted him for all 40. Wright, who scored 20 points to lead Cincinnati, and also distributed seven assists, was only a spectator for the final 15:12, going down with an apparent right knee injury while guarding a DePaul player.

"It was really scary," teammate Titus Rubles said. "We depend on him a lot."

Wright screamed in pain and needed to be helped to the locker room.

But a few minutes later, moving gingerly, he returned to the bench and got coach Mick Cronin's ear.

"He tried to come back in," Cronin said.

That wasn't going to happen.

"The training staff, they don't feel it's significant damage, but they weren't sure," Cronin said. "If they don't give me a definitive answer, I have to protect my player. He's got a (pro) career ahead of him."

Wright, who will be evaluated in Cincinnati on Wednesday, was lost for the season in the fall of 2008 with an injury to his left knee, which made this injury that much more worrying to his teammates.

"But he's old," fellow guard Sean Kilpatrick said of the fifth-year senior. "He'll be all right."

The Bearcats (15-3, 3-2 Big East), who led by 13 when Wright left the game, hung on without him, weathering a furious DePaul rally from 12 points down in the final three minutes. It was led by Cleveland Melvin, who scored a career-high 32 points, 10 of them on five baskets in the last 2:03.

His final basket cut the gap to three points with 7 seconds to play. Kilpatrick, who finished with 18 points, made a pair of free throws for the final margin.

"I thought about (playing) two years ago here, when it went down to the end," Kilpatrick said. "This was a hard fight."

"When you get in too deep of a hole, you have to have too many things go right at the end," DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said.

Cincinnati won its second straight game after breaking a two-game losing streak at Rutgers. DePaul (10-7, 1-3) has lost four of its last five games.

Wright took control after DePaul tied the game at 36. He made a 3- pointer with 1:15 to play in the first half, then answered Melvin's basket with a pair of free throws with 37 seconds left in the half.

Earlier, Wright's pair of jumpers had triggered a 13-0 run that erased DePaul's 15-4 lead.

The Blue Demons stayed close until Wright's big plays, which included a 3-pointer to start the second half.

"We should have pressed more, kept it out of the hands of Kilpatrick and their other guard (Wright)," Melvin said. "We weren't containing their drives. We could do that (press all game). We're a pressure team."

DePaul pressed early, and opened a 15-4 lead before the Bearcats could get untracked, but two jumpers by Wright started a Cincinnati run that reached 13 points in a 6:10 stretch, putting the visitors ahead 17-15 with 8:40 left in the first half. DePaul, which shot 54.8 percent in the first half but went 0 for 6 during Cincinnati's run, tied the game eight times the rest of the half, and briefly led thanks to a Brandon Young free throw, but never had command.

Instead, Cincinnati took over by scoring the first 10 points of the second half. Wright's 3-pointer started it, and was followed by a 3 by Kilpatrick, then two more baskets by Wright on drives though DePaul defenders.

"We gave them two 'dare' shots to their two best players and the beginning of the second half," Purnell said of the 3-pointers by Wright and Kilpatrick. "That really changed the complexion of the game."

Wright was trying to guard Durrell McDonald when he stretched forward with his right leg, then went down. He was on the court for about three minutes before Cincinnati's trainers helped him to the locker room.

JaQuon Parker scored 12 points for Cincinnati. Brandon Young scored 18 points for DePaul.

The Bearcats host No. 25 Marquette on Saturday, while DePaul hosts St. John's.

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