No. 12 Cincinnati braces for Central Florida's Fall (Jan 16, 2018)
No. 12 Cincinnati has nowhere to look up but up, not because the Bearcats are struggling (far from it winning eight straight games), but because they are mindful of 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall when they play Central Florida in Orlando, Fla. on Tuesday.
Fall, a junior from Senegal, is one of the 40 tallest people on earth, according to research by Central Florida. He averages 11.6 points a game, and ranks second nationally making 76.8 percent of his shots for Central Florida (12-5, 3-2 American Athletic Conference).
He anchors the Knights' defense in the middle with 2.0 blocks per game. He also pulls down 7.2 rebounds a game.
Cincinnati senior forward Gary Clark, who is 6-foot-8, will try to hold his own against Fall. He is averaging 12.6 points and a team-best 8.5 rebounds a game.
"They're a great, great defensive team," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. "Not good, great. And it's not just because of Tacko Fall. "It's because of their coaching and their toughness. They've recruited strong, athletic kids that are built to defend, one through five."
Cincinnati (15-2, 4-0) has built its success this season around its defense. The Bearcats and Central Florida are No. 2 and No. 3 nationally in scoring defense at 58.4 points and 59.1 points allowed per game, respectively.
Last season's game at Orlando was a defensive struggle. Central Florida won the game 53-49 as Fall had seven points and eight rebounds.
The Bearcats, who average 78.9 points per game, will try to master the Knights' stringent defense again. Central Florida has not allowed an opponent to reach 65 points this season.
"Somehow, we've got to knock down some shots and get some easy baskets in transition," Cronin said. "We've got to pass the ball well for 40 minutes."
Cincinnati may also have to contend with the return of junior guard B.J. Taylor, a preseason All-AAC choice by conference coaches who has not played since the first game of the season, when he broke a foot. He averaged 17.4 points per game last season.
The Knights' other top players include senior forward A.J. Davis, who is averaging 10.8 points per game and a team-best 8.5 rebounds per game, and freshman guard Ceasar Dejesus (9.8).
Central Florida won eight of nine games before losing its last game at Connecticut 62-53 on Saturday. The Knights shot just 36.5 percent from the floor and 23.8 percent from beyond the arc, while turning the ball over 15 times.
"It was difficult," Central Florida coach Johnny Dawkins said. "They're obviously a good basketball team and they had a great environment. But we have to be better."
After the Knights rallied to cut the lead to 37-36 in the second half, Connecticut pulled away with a 9-0 run.
"We picked up our intensity," Dawkins said. "I thought we were a little more aggressive. We got out in transition and ran."
Cincinnati is coming off a 78-55 win at South Florida last Saturday behind 18 points from sophomore guard Jarron Cumberland. Of the Bearcats' eight straight wins, seven are by double digits. They rank No. 3 nationally in scoring margin at plus-20.6 per game.
Jacob Evans, a junior guard, leads the Bearcats with 13.9 points a game. He scored 16 points against South Florida.