In a Big East Conference rematch, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights will pay a visit to the 24th-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats at Fifth Third Arena on Wednesday night.
Rutgers has been stuck in reverse of late with losses in three straight games and four of the last five. The most recent setback was a 66-54 loss to Connecticut that has the Scarlet Knights at 12-7 overall but just 3-5 in conference action. Rutgers has been competitive in road contests with a mark of 3-4, although it is just 1-3 in away games against Big East teams. The Scarlet Knights will play three straight at home next beginning against No. 12 Louisville next Wednesday.
The Bearcats have been idle for nine days. The last time Cincinnati was on the floor, it suffered a 57-55 loss, in heartbreaking fashion against No. 6 Syracuse. The loss put an end to a three-game winning streak for the Bearcats who are now 16-4 overall and 4-3 in conference play. At Fifth Third Arena the Bearcats have nine wins in 12 tries this season though they are just 1-3 in the last four. The Bearcats will be on the road in their next two contests against Seton Hall and Providence.
Cincinnati was the victor when these teams met earlier this month. The Bearcats posted a 68-58 win at the RAC to claim their sixth win in the last seven meetings. Cincinnati now leads the all-time series, 13-4.
Mike Rice tried shifting the starting lineup and had leading scorer Eli Carter (15.4 ppg) come off the bench against UConn. It didn't end up mattering as the Scarlet Knights shot just 39.3 percent from the field in the 12-point loss.
Jerome Seagears (5.4 ppg), who took Carter's spot in the staring lineup, did score a game-high 18 points in his seventh start of the season. Even off the bench Carter, who is 10th in the conference in scoring, still got plenty of time on the court as he scored 13 points in 30 minutes. Myles Mack (12.8 ppg) had a uncharacteristically poor shooting night against UConn has he hit just 3-of-9 shots from six points. On the season Mack has been the Big East's leader among guards in field goal percentage (.503). While the backcourt has provided the bulk of the production frontcourt contributors Wally Judge (7.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Dane Miller (7.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg) have been solid enough.
After shooting just 20.7 percent in the first half, Cincinnati rallied against Syracuse. However, a layup from C.J. Fair with 13 seconds left doomed the Bearcats' comeback attempt. The Bearcats shot just 32.7 percent overall in the game but kept themselves alive by nailing 10 shots from beyond the arc.
Though the loss to Syracuse stings, especially the offensive effort, the Bearcats have generally been strong at both ends of the floor. They rank third in the conference in scoring (73.2 ppg) despite shooting just 42.5 percent from the floor. Much of that has to do with creating second chances as the Bearcats are second in the country in rebounds (42.6 pg) while ranking fifth in offensive boards (15.3 pg). The work on the glass has also helped them allow just 59.1 points per game on a lowly 37.3 percent shooting. The backcourt is where the offensive firepower comes for Cincinnati led by Sean Kilpatrick (18.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Cashmere Wright (14.5 ppg, 3.5 apg) and JaQuon Parker (10.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg). Cheikh Mbodj (5.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg) and Titus Rubles (6.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg) anchor the interior with Mbodj especially vital on the defensive end where he blocks 2.5 shots per game.