No. 20 Cincinnati looks to extend home win streak

CINCINNATI — Cincinnati has some things to clean up prior to beginning American Athletic Conference play, namely turnovers.

In Tuesday night’s win over Arkansas Pine-Bluff, the No. 20 Bearcats (10-2) committed 15. Due to illness, associated coach Larry Davis handled the postgame press briefing for head coach Mick Cronin and said turnovers are continually addressed in practice.

“In practice every day, there are consequences when you turn the ball over,” Davis said. “There will be consequences in practice (on Wednesday).”

The Bearcats wrap up their non-conference schedule with a game against Cleveland State on Thursday night at BB&T Arena, on the campus of Northern Kentucky University, where Cincinnati is playing its home games this season while Fifth Third Arena undergoes an $87 million renovation.

The Bearcats will be looking to extend their nation-leading home winning streak to 33 games. The last time Cincinnati lost on its home court was Dec. 29, 2015, to Temple.

With conference play and Christmas break upcoming, the Bearcats must avoid a letdown against Cleveland State, but that’s not likely, said Davis.

“We know coach (Dennis Felton) well,” Davis said. “He was at Tulsa, so he knows our team well. They’re a little more talented, a little bigger and a little stronger than this team we just played (Arkansas Pine-Bluff), so it will be a bigger challenge.”

Cincinnati leads the series 11-0, including 8-0 at home. It’s the first meeting since 1999.

Cleveland State is 6-43 all-time against ranked teams. The Vikings play second-ranked Michigan State on Dec. 29. Their last win over a ranked team was a 71-58 victory at No. 7 Vanderbilt in in the 2011-12 season opener.

But, Cincinnati is mostly concerned with its own play on Thursday night.

Davis did mention following Tuesday’s win that the Bearcats need to do a better job of team rebounding as the season progresses. Gary Clark and Trevon Scott had seven of the team’s 14 offensive rebounds in the win.

“We’re concerned about our team rebounding,” Davis said. “Clark and Scott were the only guys getting offensive rebounds. If we’re going to be the team we want to be, we’ve got to get other guys involved. For us, as coaches, we’ve got to drive guys to keep getting better. We have areas we’ve got to shore up.”

Cleveland State (3-7) will give the Bearcats one more opportunity to work on those things prior to league play. The Vikings are playing three games in five days. The trip to Cincinnati is their seventh road game already this season.

Davis said the primary goal Thursday night is getting a lot of players involved, guys that will have less paying time as the season progresses.

“We knew going in that we felt like we would be playing more guys and giving them extended minutes,” Davis said. “The bench will probably be longer against Cleveland State, but guys need to play well for them and for us. We’ve got to build a bench and get production out of guys. They don’t have to win the war, but they will have to hold the fort.”