No. 20 Cincinnati looks to build on win at UCLA

No. 20 Cincinnati rebounded from back-to-back losses with a pair of impressive wins last week, defeating Mississippi State at home on Tuesday and UCLA on the road Saturday.

The Bearcats return to BB&T Arena on Tuesday against an opponent, Arkansas Pine Bluff, trying to recover from much more than just a two-game skid.

The Golden Lions (0-12) dropped a 96-74 decision at Weber State on Saturday and have an 18-game losing streak, dating to Feb. 13.

Cincinnati (9-2) marks the 13th consecutive road game for Arkansas Pine Bluff this season, which will not play a home game until Jan. 13.

The Bearcats are coming off an impressive performance at Pauley Pavilion, one in which they led UCLA by double digits for the entire second half. Four of Cincinnati’s starters scored in double figures, led by forward Kyle Washington’s 19 points.

“It was just about me coming out and playing my best,” Washington said of his performance at UCLA.

Washington’s play inside, coupled with guard Jacob Evans hitting for 16 or more points for the third time in four games, has helped spark Cincinnati’s recent offensive production.

The trend is one Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin aims to build on.

“If he takes his time, the way he shoots his jump hook, he can’t be stopped,” Cronin said of Washington.

That does not bode well for an undersized Arkansas Pine Bluff rotation. The Golden Lions do not play anyone taller than 6-foot-8 in their typical lineup, which should complicate their interior defense against the rugged Bearcats.

Cincinnati also boasts a rebounding margin of plus-8.4 per game. UCLA matched the Bearcats on the boards, but Arkansas Pine Bluff likely won’t, considering the Golden Lions enter the game with a minus-11.2 margin on the glass. Only three teams in Division I are worse.

Arkansas Pine Bluff also ranks No. 349 out of 351 Division I teams in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom.com metrics. Cincinnati is ranked fourth nationally in defensive efficiency, coming off a win in which it held UCLA to its season-low scoring half of 23 points.

The next challenge for Cincinnati is turning the page to continue its progress toward American Athletic Conference play.

“You wouldn’t believe how these kids have a short-term memory,” Cronin said. “They’re just thinking about the next game and when they can get home to see their girlfriends.”

Getting home is not on the agenda for Arkansas Pine Bluff any time soon. The Golden Lions’ globetrotting took them from Honolulu, to Texas to face Cincinnati’s AAC counterpart SMU, to California, Oregon and Utah. Their visit to Cincinnati is their furthest trip east yet.

Guard Martaveous McKnight leads Arkansas Pine Bluff with 17.3 points per game. He hit for a season-high 30 points in a nine-point loss to 2017 NCAA Tournament team North Dakota last month at the Rainbow Classic in Hawaii. McKnight scored 27 in Saturday’s loss at Weber State.