No. 15 Cincinnati has big chore against UCF

Cincinnati faces a big problem — literally — in its rematch with Central Florida.

That would be 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall, who had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Knights in the first meeting between the teams earlier this month.

The Bearcats won that one 60-50 after scoring the first nine points of the game, but Fall got the Knights’ attention.

“It was crazy,” Kyle Washington, the Bearcats’ 6-9 forward, who gave up nine inches in height trying to defend the sophomore from Senegal, said afterward. “He is a huge human being.”

Washington, who actually matched Fall’s production in scoring and on the boards, will get another shot at his taller adversary when the No. 15 Bearcats (25-3, 14-1 American Athletic Conference) and Knights (18-10, 9-7) meet Sunday in UCF’s CFE Arena in Orlando, Fla.

Tipoff is 3 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network).

The Bearcats need a win to keep pace in the league race with SMU, which improved to 15-1 in the conference and 25-4 overall with a 69-61 victory over Connecticut Saturday.

Washington will have some help in defending Fall, who is Central Florida’s third-leading scorer at 11.9 points per game behind guards B.J. Taylor (16.7) and Matt Williams (15.4).

Although he didn’t miss a shot in seven attempts in the first meeting, the Bearcats forced Fall into six turnovers, all in the second half.

“Well, if you don’t swarm him, he is just going to dunk it,” Cincy coach Mack Cronin said. “He doesn’t even have to jump.”

The bigger issue for the Bearcats, however, might be at the other end of the court. The Knights go into the game holding opponents to 36.3 percent field goal shooting, which was the best in the country heading into this weekend.

The Bearcats shot only 35.4 percent in the first game, going 9-of-29 from behind the 3-point arc.

“I look at their percentages and I thought we played good enough defense both field goal percentage defense and 3-point percentage defense,” first-year Central Florida coach Johnny Dawkins said. “When you hold a team in the 60s that averages in the 70s, you have a chance to win.”

Both the Bearcats and the Knights, who will be playing their home finale, will be going for their fourth win in a row. The Knights are coming off consecutive road wins over East Carolina 61-58 and Temple 71-69.

The Bearcats beat Memphis 87-74 at home in the last outing but had to hang on in the second half after leading 51-32 at intermission. The Tigers were within six points with just over five minutes left before the Bearcats closed on a 12-5 spurt.

“This time of year you’re just trying to continue to win and get to the next game,” Cronin said. “We learn our lessons. We’ve got to obviously play a better defensive game.”