Arkansas-Little Rock (7-3) at (11) Cincinnati (7-0)
Thursday, December 6, 7 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Fifth Third Arena (13,176) -- Cincinnati, Ohio. Television: FSN-OH. Home Record: UALR 6-0, Cincinnati 5-0. Away Record: UALR 0-2, Cincinnati 0-0. Neutral Record: UALR 1-1, Cincinnati 2-0. Conference Record: UALR 2-0, Cincinnati 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAMES NOTES: The 11th-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats continue a three-game homestand when they host the Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans at Fifth Third Arena on Thursday night.
After starting the season 1-2, the Trojans have been red hot with wins in six of their last seven games, including victories in three straight. The most recent was a 91-30 rout of NAIA foe St. Gregory's. The Trojans have benefited from a early schedule that has featured a number of home games, but have dropped both of their true road games this season in blowout fashion to Louisiana Tech (70-52) and Ole Miss (92-52).
It looked like Cincinnati might finally lose a game in its last outing but Cashmere Wright shook off the rust of a poor shooting night and hit a jump- shot at the buzzer to lift the Bearcats to a 58-56 win over Alabama last Saturday. The win was the seventh straight to start the season for the Bearcats. The team will close out its current homestand with a matchup with Maryland-Eastern Shore on Saturday.
This marks the first-ever meeting between these two teams.
Arkansas-Little Rock feasted on St. Gregory's and ran out to a 46-13 lead at halftime by shooting 52.9 percent from the floor. The Trojans continued to dominate in the second half and ended up with an easy victory. The Trojans scored 35 points off of 24 turnovers and outscored St. Gregory's 38-22 on points in the paint. Ten different players scored for UALR, led by John Gillon's 17 points.
Even before the win over St. Gregory's, Arkansas-Little Rock had been a solid offensive team. The Trojans are scoring 68.8 points per game this season, while shooting 43.1 percent from the field. During the recent hot streak the Trojans have been strong on the other end as well holding opponents to less than 60 points in five of their last six games. Overall the Trojans are limiting teams to 60.3 points per game and 39.1 percent shooting. Will Neighbour (12.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg) leads the team offensively. Gillon (11.4 ppg) is also scoring in double figures, while James White (9.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg) is a solid complement to Neighbour in the frontcourt.
Wright had connected on only 3-of-8 shots before nailing his game-winner against Alabama. The poor shooting effected the entire team as the Bearcats connected on only 39.0 percent of their shots from the floor, including just 2-of-11 from beyond the arc. The Bearcats were especially weak in the second half as there were eight lead changes after Cincinnati held the lead for the entire first half. Sean Kilpatrick and JaQuon Parker each scored 13 points to lead the team, but combined to shoot 10-of-23 from the floor.
Normally Cincinnati is a team that excels at the offensive end. Cincinnati is scoring 82.7 points per game on 46.4 percent shooting, while assisting on 15.3 field goals a game. The Bearcats' scoring average is the top mark in the Big East and the 11th best nationally. Cincinnati also keeps up the pressure on the other end by holding team's to 60.0 points per game on 34.1 percent shooting. The list of strengths continues on the boards with the Bearcats the third-best rebounding team in the country (46.7 pg). The offensive efficiency comes from the stellar backcourt trio of Kilpatrick, Wright and Parker. Kilpatrick (19.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg) has a ton of size and athletic ability and gets to the rim effortlessly. Wright (15.3 ppg) and Parker (10.9 ppg) rely more on their shots from the outside. In terms of frontcourt help Justin Jackson (3.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Cheikh Mbodj (5.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg) are the best options.
Strong guard play is an essential ingredient for a winning team in college basketball and the Bearcats have plenty in that regard. The Trojans just don't have the type of backcourt options to keep up. Expect the Bearcats to shake off the poor shooting against Alabama and continue its blistering start to the campaign.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cincinnati 80, Arkansas-Little Rock 62
12/06 10:45:34 ET