Fairleigh Dickinson-Cincinnati Preview (Dec 17, 2016)
CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati rebounded from a tough loss at No. 18 Butler with an impressive victory over Texas Southern.
Now, Mick Cronin's No. 25 Bearcats look to build momentum heading into American Athletic Conference play, beginning with Saturday's game against Fairleigh Dickinson at Fifth Third Arena (2:30 p.m. ET).
"We try as a team to continue to grow every day and get better to do what we want to do in March," senior guard Kevin Johnson said. "It's a long season. We're going to go through our bumps and bruises but as long as we continue to improve every day and get better on offense and communicate on defense we'll have a great March."
Cincinnati (8-2) provided glimpses into its potential this season with a win at then-No. 19 Iowa State and a narrow loss to then-No. 21 Rhode Island.
On Saturday against a Texas Southern team with quality mid-major talent, the Bearcats erupted for 59 second-half points led by freshman Jarron Cumberland who scored a career-high 18 points and went 4 of 4 from 3-point range.
"Jarron has had some really good practices," Cronin said. "I've been on him to be aggressive. I was happier with his defense and his rebounding. I have been on him about not living behind the line. I have really been on all of our perimeter guys about that. I knew it was going to show eventually that he could play."
Cumberland gives the Bearcats another option off the bench and that depth should serve them well at tournament time. Cincinnati was shooting 74.2 percent late in the second half Tuesday, a good sign for the Bearcats' offense which has been stagnant at times.
Cincinnati is looking for another balanced performance from Gary Clark, who scored 13 points and tied a career-high with six assists Tuesday.
Fairleigh Dickinson (2-8) hung in there at Rutgers on Wednesday night before the Scarlet Knights pulled away in the second half for an 82-69 victory.
Darian Anderson came off the bench to score 22 points and Mike Holloway added 14, but Fairleigh Dickinson was outrebounded 43-31 -- 16-8 on the offensive end, something that doesn't bode well against an aggressive rebounding team such as Cincinnati.
"It's a learning process," Knights coach Greg Herenda said. "We just have to try to put two halves together on the road. It's difficult (schedule). I love it. Down the road, it's going to help our basketball team."
Cincinnati won 14 consecutive games at Fifth Third Arena dating to a 77-70 loss to Temple on Dec. 29, 2015.
The Knights already have faced Seton Hall, Ohio State, and Rutgers -- all on the road. Herenda said his players won't be stuck staring at the banners on the wall of Fifth Third Arena.
"I don't think we'll be in shock," Herenda said. "Playing in Cincinnati is another species. They've won national championships. Oscar Robertson played there. It's going to be hard, but it'll be a lot of fun."