Cincinnati Bearcats Host Pittsburgh Panthers in Top-25 Big East Matchup

By Ryan Darcy
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

If the Cincinnati Bearcats expect to complete the regular season sweep of the Pittsburgh Panthers tonight, they’ll need to do two things–score more than 60 points and get to the free throw line.

Easier said than done.

In Cincinnati’s six Big East wins, the Bearcats have surpassed the 60-point plateau every time. In their four losses, they’ve fallen short, only reaching 60 once. Their offense goes as guard Sean Kilpatrick goes–the junior from White Plains, NY is averaging 18.3 points per game, good for third in the Big East and is also second in three-pointers made per game, with 2.65.

Good news if you’re a UC fan–since 2010-11, they’re 6-1 the second time playing a Big East opponent. Now just get to 60 points. They have been in every single game they’ve played in conference though, even the losses–their four losses are by a total of 11 points. Which leads me to my second point.

Get to the free throw line. In wins, they get there an average of 30.5 times per game–in losses, just 13. In conference, they’ve made more free throws (163) than their opponents have attempted (158).

Having been in all these close games, it’s easy to say the Bearcats should be 8-2 or 9-1 in conference play. Problem is, the same intensity they bring every night on the defensive end doesn’t always show up on the offensive end. Part of it has to do with the inability to consistently establish an interior game despite aggressive guard play, but there are signs this is turning around.

Center Cheikh Mbodj, who has found his groove over the past four games, is getting to the line and making his free throws–83.3 percent of them.

Cincinnati is looking to avoid the start they had last time they played Pitt. Look for their defense to be smothering as usual and pound the rock inside to Mbodj. Their guards, Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright also need to remain aggressive as well–the two are their top free throw shooters.

I look for the Bearcats to impose their will on the defensive end, get to the line and get the win, as ugly as it might be.

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