Bearcats looking for big win over Villanova

Bearcats looking for big win over Villanova

Published Jan. 12, 2012 12:15 p.m. ET

Cincinnati is back on track after a weekend hiccup, and that could spell trouble for nemesis Villanova.

The Bearcats pulled off a 68-64 road upset of No. 11 Georgetown on Monday night following a disappointing two-point home loss to freshman-laden St. John's two days earlier that snapped the Bearcats' seven-game winning streak.

Cincinnati (13-4, 3-1) also moved into a second-place tie in the Big East with Seton Hall, (14-2, 3-1), trailing only No. 1 Syracuse (17-0, 4-0). The Bearcats figure to be a solid favorite against visiting Villanova (8-8, 1-3) on Saturday.

Villanova is having a down year after making seven consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, and the Wildcats have the difficult task of hosting Syracuse on Wednesday.

Junior guard Maalik Wayns is Villanova's top player, entering the week averaging a team-high 17.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists. Wayns had scored in double digits in all 16 games this season, and he had seven 20-point games.

Junior forward Mouphtaou Yarou was averaging 12.8 points and 7.8 rebounds a game, and junior guard Dominic Cheek was scoring 11.8 points a game.

Cincinnati is 1-5 against Villanova since joining the Big East at the start of the 2005-06 season. Last season, the Bearcats lost 72-61 at Villanova as they shot just 36 percent and a miserable 10 percent (2-for-20) from 3-point range.

Guard Sean Kilpatrick had 11 points, three assists and three steals for Cincinnati, and forward Yancy Gates also scored 11 points. Wayns finished with 15 points and five assists but also had six of Villanova's 19 turnovers.

STAR WATCH: Sophomore G Sean Kilpatrick is developing into a dynamic scorer, and that never was that more evident than Monday night, when he had a career-high 27 points in Cincinnati's 68-64 victory at No. 11 Georgetown. Kilpatrick made 10 of 16 field goal attempts, including three of five from 3-point range. He also helped spark Cincinnati's defensive effort with four steals, as Georgetown had 16 turnovers. Kilpatrick is averaging 16.4 points a game this season, up from 9.7 as a freshman. His previous scoring high was 26 points against Wright State last season.


Cronin: UC must 'show up' every day

--Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin wasn't pleased with several defensive lapses in the second half of the last-second loss to St. John's on Jan. 7. But defense has been the great equalizer for the Bearcats, who managed to win seven consecutive games, including five straight while Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj, and Octavius Ellis were suspended for their roles in the brawl with Xavier.

The defensive numbers tell the story for UC which averaged just under 18 turnovers forced per game during an eight-game stretch, and held 12 of its first 16 opponents to 60 points or less. The Bearcats were leading the Big East Conference in scoring defense (57.3) and 3-point defense (29 percent) through Jan. 8.

During the suspensions, UC converted to a four-guard offense that gave players the freedom to play at a frenetic pace and seemingly to shoot at will. Cronin believes the offensive pace necessitated by this system helped energize the Bearcats' defense.

"I think when you play hard on the defensive end and you're scrambling on the defensive end, you make shots," Cronin said. "You get lost in the game. You're spending all your time worrying about hustling and scrapping and then on offense you're not thinking anymore. You just play. Now you're on the attack."

Although a few missed assignments resulted in the loss to St. John's, won on a tip-in at the buzzer by Moe Harkless, it was the Bearcats' defensive effort that kept them in the game despite shooting just 26.3 percent from the field. UC rallied from a 15-point deficit to tie the score with eight seconds remaining before the Red Storm on in dramatic fashion.

--The loss to St. John's prevented Cincinnati from starting 3-0 in the Big East Conference for the first time since joining the league in 2005.

--The Bearcats averaged 11 made 3-pointers in an eight-game stretch after averaging just 5.4 3-pointers in their first eight games.

--Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj and Octavius Ellis served six-game suspensions for their roles in a brawl with crosstown rival Xavier on Dec. 10. Guard Ge'Lawn Guyn was suspended one game for his role in the fight. Gates, Mbodj and Ellis returned for the Jan. 4 win over Notre Dame.

BY THE NUMBERS: 26.3 percent -- The Bearcats' woeful shooting percentage in the Jan. 7 loss to St. John's, which includes going 7-for-32 from 3-point range.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We played awful and I'm not talking about shooting the basketball. That's a weak excuse. (Shooting) has nothing to do with getting a rebound, getting a defensive stop, stopping their best player in the final minutes. It was a lack of focus. And it started the minute we showed up today." -- Coach Mick Cronin, following a 57-55 loss to St. John's in which the Bearcats shot 26.3 percent.



--vs. Villanova, Jan. 14

KEY MATCHUPS: Villanova shot just 29.2 percent from 3-point range through 15 games. The Wildcats will need to shoot well to have a chance to pull a surprise at Fifth Third Arena. Maalik Wayns was Nova's top scorer through Sunday, although Mouphta Yarou and Dominic Cheeks also averaged in double figures.

FUTURES MARKET: Junior G JaQuon Parker, who struggled for playing time and to stay in Mick Cronin's good graces last season, has helped key the Bearcats resurgence. Parker dedicated himself in the offseason and is in the best shape of his career. He also overcame a torn groin muscle that caused him to miss seven games. Parker averaged 10.6 points and 5.9 rebounds in nine games, including eight starts, and was shooting 60 percent from 3-point range through Jan. 8.


--Senior G Dion Dixon nearly had a career scoring high Monday, coming up one point shy with a season-high 22. He was only 1-for-5 from long range but shot 8-for-15 overall and also had four steals. That was quite a turnaround from two days earlier when Dixon failed to score in a 57-55 loss to St. John's, going 0-for-8 from the field and missing all five 3-point attempts. Dixon's career high is 23 points, set against Miami (Ohio) last season.

--Senior F Yancy Gates started Monday for the first time in three games since being reinstated from his six-game suspension. He played 32 minutes and had eight points and seven rebounds. Gates is averaging 8.0 points and 7.3 rebounds in the three games. He was suspended by the university for his part in the melee that brought an early end to Cincinnati's loss to crosstown rival Xavier on Dec. 10.

--Sophomore G Sean Kilpatrick scored in double-figures in 14 of the first 16 games this season. In that stretch, he averaged 15.7 points and had 25 steals and 28 assists. Kilpatrick energized the Bearcats in the four-guard offense instituted while three players were suspended. He was named Big East Conference player of the week on Jan. 2.

--Highly touted four-star recruit Shaq Thomas was ruled ineligible due to alleged academic discrepancies at NIA Prep in New Jersey. Thomas, a 6-foot-7 forward, is practicing with the team.