Cincinnati was ever so close to forcing overtime in the final first round game of the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
But in the end, it wasn't meant to be due to a dunk that was just a split-second too late.
Instead, it's Saint Joseph's moving on to a date with Oregon in the second round following a 78-76 first-round win over the Bearcats that couldn't have been closer to going the way if it tried.
After leading for a large portion of the second half, St. Joe's found itself down 76-75 with just seconds remaining after a Jacob Evans dunk with 16 seconds to go. Instead of panicking, the Hawks just ran a nice pick-and-roll involving star DeAndre Bembry, who drew all of the attention to him and then passed the ball to Isaiah Miles on the weak side who knocked down a 3 with just seconds remaining to give St. Joe's a 78-76 lead.
Cincinnati then went the length of the floor and nearly tied the game. But instead of going for a layup, Octavius Ellis attempted to dunk the ball as time expired. It was just one-tenth of a second too late though, as the ball just stuck in his hand a bit too long.
The refs ruled Octavious Ellis' dunk good, but I think it's after the buzzer. (Maybe) another heartbreak for Cincy. pic.twitter.com/QiiFYhG1iE— Andy Wittry (@AndyWittry) March 19, 2016
Here's a photo of the ball still in Ellis' hand. Ever so close, but no cigar.
Shouldn't have tried to dunk it, Cincinnati. Got too greedy. Now you're going home pic.twitter.com/r8InowA3jP— Keith (@KeithMcC29) March 19, 2016
That's a tough way for Ellis to go out, especially after a tumultuous five years of college basketball that led to him going to Cincinnati, being dismissed, then returning two years later after reforming his body and attitude. It's been a series of significant peaks -- like his All-AAC selection last season -- and devastating valleys during his career at Cincinnati. It's a shame that it has to end with such a heart-breaking moment.
Because of that final split-second though, the game went a different way. And that made Miles the hero after reshaping his body and game over the summer to become a bigger piece of St. Joe's puzzle.
"Yeah, in my career that's the first game-winning shot I ever had," Miles said after the game. He then went on to explain the first game-winner he can remember seeing in his life.
"Evan Turner's in Ohio State, when he hit that half-court game winner," Miles remembered. "He gave that stare to the crowd. I couldn't do that stare, I had to get back on defense."
Miles finished with 19 points and seven rebounds, but it was Bembry that was the star of the game.
The Atlantic-10 Player of the Year scored 25 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out five assists to lead his team to its 28th victory of the season. Everywhere you looked in this game, there was Bembry. His fingerprints were all over this one, and he was the major reason that St. Joe's now has a date with Oregon in the second round.
"These players are very, very special, and I'm delighted to coach them one more day," St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli said after the game.