The Cincinnati Bearcats are one of the hottest teams in the country as they come into a big AAC game against UConn. The Bearcats are winners of 14 straight games after suffering back-to-back losses in early December and now sit at 21-2, good enough for a national ranking of 7 in both the AP and the USA Today polls. In Cincinnati's two losses they shot extremely poorly, shooting 29.5% in a 63-54 loss at New Mexico, and then 33.3% in a 64-47 loss to Xavier. The Bearcats' best nonconference win came against former conference foe Pittsburgh in the Jimmy V Classic. Cincinnati gave the Panthers their first loss of the season, winning 44-43, holding Pitt to just 31.4% from the field, including 2-13 from three-point range. Justin Jackson led the way with 12 points and 9 rebounds.
The Bearcats have posted a 10-0 record to start off conference play and have already beaten the other top teams in the AAC in Louisville, SMU, and Memphis. In their win at Memphis, ranked 18th in the nation at the time, they surprised most people by winning 69-53. Cincinnati held the Tigers to an awful 2-17 shooting night from 3 while Sean Kilpatrick and Jackson scored 18 and 13 respectively. Just last week, in a clash between two top 25 teams, Cincinnati took care of business against 12th ranked Louisville on the road, squeaking out a 69-66 win. The Bearcats were led by Kilpatrick again, who scored an impressive 28 points, including a perfect 11-11 mark from the free throw line.
Statistically, Cincinnati struggles a bit on the offensive side of the ball. They average 70.2 points which ranks 220th in the nation, and they shoot 42.9% which ranks a not-so-great 256th in the nation. Most of Cincinnati's scoring only comes from two of their players, which we will get into now:
Sean Kilpatrick, G, Redshirt Senior (6-foot-4, 210 pounds): AAC player of the week last week. Leads team in scoring with 19.4 PPG, which leads the AAC as well. Also averages 3.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. He shoots a boatload of three-pointers, as he is 59-173 from deep this year for 34.1%. The 173 attempts is good for 12th in the nation in three-point attempts, and the 59 makes ranks 47th in made three-pointers. Also, shoots 86.8% from the free throw line.
Justin Jackson, F, Senior (6-foot-8, 230 pounds): Second on the team in scoring with 11.3 PPG. Jackson and Kilpatrick are the only two players for Cincinnati to average in double figures. He shoots 56% from the field and also leads the team in rebounds with 7.0 a game. Jackson's most impressive asset is his ability to block shots. He averages 3.3 blocks a game, 9th nationally, and has amassed 76 total blocks, good for 4th in the nation. His least impressive asset is his free throw shooting percentage which is an awful 50%.
Titus Rubles, F, Senior (6-foot-7, 220 pounds): He is 3rd on the team in scoring with 7.3 points and 2nd on the team in rebounding with 6.4 a game. Rubles, along with Jackson, is Cincinnati's best rebounder as he is averaging 7.3 rebounds during conference play which ranks 7th in the AAC. When it comes to rebounding, the Huskies have to be sure to box out both him and Jackson.
Jermaine Sanders, F, Junior (6-foot-5, 210 pounds): Along with Kilpatrick, he is one of Cincinnati's best three-point threats. Sanders only averages 6.1 points a game but shoots a high percentage from three at 40.3% going 25-62 on the year.
Jermaine Lawrence, F, Freshman (6-foot-9, 205 pounds): Cincinnati's best recruit coming into the season, Lawrence was a 4-star recruit according to ESPN and ranked 35th in the ESPN100 rankings. Lawrence averages about 17 minutes a game, scoring 4.2 points and pulling down 3.3 rebounds, before injuring his toe, which has sidelined him for the past 8 games. He has been out since January 4th but is expected to return tonight.
Cincinnati is coached by Mick Cronin who is in his 8th season at Cincinnati. While coaching the Bearcats, Cronin has compiled a 156-101 record and has been to the NCAA Tournament the past 3 years, including a trip to the Sweet 16 in the 2011-12 season. He has turned the program around since Bob Huggins left in 2005. In his first year, Cronin went 11-19 (2-14 in the Big East) and now has the Bearcats at a top 10 ranking. Before Cincinnati, he was the head coach at Murray State where he went 69-24 over 3 years, going to the NCAA Tournament in 2 of those years. Before becoming a head coach, Cronin was an assistant at Cincinnati from 1997-2001 and then at Louisville from 2001-2003.