For the Cincinnati Bearcats, the last month and a half have sounded like a broken record, filled with road losses and the continued inability to come through in crunch time.
The Cardinals forced 21 turnovers, and lighting-quick guards Peyton Siva and Russ Smith used the fast break to turn their suffocating defense into transition opportunities. Smith led the way for Rick Pitino‘s squad, putting up 18 points and getting to line 8 times, where he converted on 6 of his attempts. After failing to score a single point and turning the ball over three times against Syracuse on Saturday, Siva put up 11 points without committing a turnovers tonight.
In its fourth straight loss to a ranked opponent, Cincinnati simply couldn’t knock down shots, and converted only 35.3 percent of its shots from the floor. Star 2-guard Sean Kilpatrick’s poor shooting night was a major reason for Cincy’s struggles. Averaging 17.7 points per game and shooting 40.9 percent on the season, Kilpatrick went 3 for 15 from the floor, and just 1 of 9 from behind the arc, finishing with 12 points on the night.
Over the past month, Louisville and Cincinnati have been on opposite trajectories.
The Cardinals are playing their best basketball of the Big East season, and have reeled off six wins in a row, including a win against then-No. 6 Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. With its three-game losing streak in late January, Louisville lost its Top 10 ranking, but has climbed back up to No.8 as a result of its recent play.
On the other hand, Cincinnati has dropped six of its last eight games, and has lost five of six on the road. The Bearcats’ terrible stretch over the last month and a half of play has been devastating to their Tournament resume. According to Joe Lunardi of ESPN, Cincinnati has dropped from a No. 4 seed to a No. 8 seed over the past month.
On Saturday, Cincy will take on South Florida in its regular season finale, looking to right the ship before the start of the BIG EAST Tournament.
Louisville will attempt to continue its hot streak on Saturday when it hosts No. 24 Notre Dame. The Cardinals have a chance to solidify themselves as a No. 2 seed in the Big Dance with a strong performance in the BIG EAST Tourney.