The 25th-ranked Marquette Golden Eagles put their lofty perch atop the Big East standings on the line on Saturday, as they take on the Cincinnati Bearcats at Fifth Third Arena.
The Golden Eagles are in a three-way tie atop the conference standings with Louisville and Syracuse, but those two teams play each other this weekend. Buzz Williams has his team playing at a high level right now, coming into this contest with a five-game win streak in tow. Four of those victories have come in Big East play, including a 69-62 win against Seton Hall this week. The 4-0 league start is MU's best since 2008-09.
Mick Cronin's Bearcats were part of the top-25 for much of this season, but have hit a wall in-conference, with a modest 3-2 mark. The team dropped back- to-back games at home to St. John's and Notre Dame, but have bounced back with consecutive wins on the road at Rutgers and most recently, DePaul (75-70).
This marks the 46th all-time meeting between these two teams. Cincinnati owns a 26-19 series advantage, including a 14-7 edge in the Queen City.
Marquette doesn't come into this game with flashy offensive numbers. The Golden Eagles are averaging just 69.9 ppg, although they are doing so on an efficient .466 shooting. The defensive effort has been far more consistent, with opponents averaging just 61.9 ppg. Vander Blue is the team's top offensive threat, averaging 13.7 ppg. Davante Gardner hasn't started a single game this year, but has been a key contributor, shooting 61.5 percent from the floor and averaging 13.1 ppg. Junior Cadougan and Jamil Wilson add some scoring depth with 9.1 and 9.0 ppg, respectively.
Marquette got a balanced effort at the offensive end in the win over Seton Hall. Four Golden Eagles finished in double figures, led by Gardner's 17 points. Todd Mayo was instrumental off the bench as well with 12 points, while Blue and Wilson checked in with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Cincinnati is a strong defensive team as well, holding opponents to just 58.6 ppg and well under 40 percent shooting (.372). In addition, the Bearcats have flourished on the boards with a +8.9 rebounding margin. Offensively, UC relies heavily on its three-guard set. Sean Kilpatrick headlines the trio, netting 17.3 ppg. Cashmere Wright can also fill up the basket (15.1 ppg), while getting others involved in the offensive flow (3.7 apg). JaQuon Parker rounds out the team's scoring depth with 11.1 ppg.
Wright led all scorers with 20 points, but Cincinnati's win over DePaul may have come at a cost, as Wright suffered a knee injury and is listed as questionable for this contest. Kilpatrick poured in 18 points and Parker finished with 11, as Cincinnati shot a scorching .595 from the field and held a 35-27 advantage in rebounding.