Houston-Cincinnati Preview

Cincinnati has gotten plenty of time to recover and work on its game after the end to one of its longest win streaks in the past 12 seasons.

The 10th-ranked Bearcats will try to bounce back from that defeat Saturday against Houston while adding to its American Athletic Conference lead and string of 18 consecutive home victories.

One of the nation’s best defensive teams, Cincinnati (22-3, 11-1) had one of its worst performances in a visit to Southern Methodist last Saturday. The Bearcats allowed the Mustangs to shoot 54.3 percent and gave up a season high-tying point total in a 76-55 loss.

"We won a lot of games when we didn’t play our best. We won with defense and leadership. We need to clean some things up," said coach Mick Cronin, whose team is allowing 57.6 points and 39.2 percent shooting.

Sean Kilpatrick, averaging 19.8 points, scored 22 but went 5 of 18 from the field. Justin Jackson scored 10 as the only other Bearcat to reach double figures.

Cincinnati appears to have a good chance to bounce back and pad its conference lead as it’s playing at home. The Bearcats’ 16-0 start at Fifth Third Arena is the best since the building opened in September 1989, and their 18 wins in a row there are the fourth most.

They’ll face a Cougars team that’s lost a season-high four straight on the road and 11 consecutive away matchups with ranked opponents.

"It’s a mental approach that we have to have," coach James Dickey said of his team’s play on the road. "We won at South Florida (67-58 on Jan. 4), and we had a good approach. We have to be tougher physically and mentally."

Houston had dropped a season-worst five in a row overall before an 88-74 win over Temple on Sunday. Leading scorer and rebounder TaShawn Thomas had 25 points and nine boards while going 10 of 12 from the field.

The junior forward, averaging 16.2 points and 8.8 boards on the season, is at 19.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 65.7 percent shooting in his first three games this month.

Thomas had one of his lowest-scoring performances of the season with 10 points while adding nine rebounds at home against Cincinnati on Jan. 7. The Bearcats turned in a subpar offensive effort throughout much of the second half and had to hold on for a 61-60 victory, nearly blowing a 19-point second-half lead.

"We did not play well on the offensive end in the second half against Houston. We missed a lot of open shots. We had a lot of foul trouble," Cronin said. "We’re going to have to put the ball in the basket to beat Houston."

The Bearcats improved to 23-1 all-time in the series. Brandon Morris matched a career high with 17 points and made five 3-pointers for the Cougars, who will try for their first win in 12 games at Cincinnati.

Cincinnati has taken 11 in a row overall in the series.