Md.-Eastern Shore-Cincinnati Preview
Undefeated Cincinnati has consistently blown out much weaker opponents. There isn't any reason to think that trend won't continue against winless Maryland-Eastern Shore.
The 11th-ranked Bearcats try to open 9-0 while the visiting Hawks hope to avoid starting 0-9 when these teams square off Saturday.
Cincinnati has been somewhat tested in three games against teams from major conferences, though its only real scare came last Saturday in a 58-56 nail-biter against Alabama. The Bearcats have outscored foes by an average of 34.4 points in their other five contests, most recently cruising past Arkansas-Little Rock 87-53 on Thursday.
Among the Big East leaders with 19.6 points per game, Sean Kilpatrick scored 18 while Cheikh Mbodj and fellow center David Nyarsuk posted season highs of 12. It was the Bearcats' defensive effort, though, that proved most noteworthy: they set a school record with 23 steals and forced a season-high 32 turnovers.
"When they're rattled, it's better for us because they start turning the ball over," Kilpatrick said. "(You see) their facial expressions. They can't get it over the half-court mark. Then, most importantly, it's the coach. If you can look at the coach and he's really frustrated, that's the last thing you want as a player.
"We're proud, but that's expected. That's something we have to keep doing every game and continue to get better at. I'm not sitting here saying I'm satisfied with it. I appreciate it, but we've got to keep doing it every night."
While coach Mick Cronin was pleased with his team's effort Thursday, he knows there's still plenty of room for improvement, especially on offense. The Bearcats shot 39.3 percent over their previous three games before posting a 47.9 mark against the Trojans.
"That's where we've got to improve," Cronin said. "To be great, you've got to be great on both ends. You can win a lot of games being a heck of a defensive team. But to be really great you got to be able to score. And you're going to run into teams that can score on you. You're going to have to be able to trade with them."
That isn't likely to be an issue Saturday. Maryland-Eastern Shore, on the verge of its worst start since opening 0-12 in 2002-03, is averaging 57.6 points and shooting 34.1 percent from the field - second-worst in the country.
The Hawks had a hard time keeping up again Wednesday in a 100-68 loss at Maryland. Sophomore Kyree Jones, averaging a team-best 15.5 points, scored 24 for the second consecutive game while junior Troy Snyder added a career-high 19 to go with nine rebounds.
The Terrapins shot a season-high 61.3 percent against Maryland-Eastern Shore, which was outrebounded 43-34.
"Both Kyree and Troy gave us a great effort tonight, but as you can see by the numbers, Maryland's size really bothered us," coach Frankie Allen told the school's official website.
After Saturday's game, the Hawks continue a stretch of seven in a row on the road with a visit to Connecticut on Dec. 17.
"The schedule is what it is," Allen said. "We need to get some rest, practice and get ready to play."
The Hawks have dropped their 10 meetings with Top 25 teams over the past 15 years by an average of 37.1 points.
Cincinnati has won 11 straight home games and 43 of 46 against unranked, non-conference foes.