Cincinnati (21-9) at Villanova (12-17)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 3, 2:00 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: The Pavilion (6,500) -- Villanova, Pennsylvania. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Cincinnati 14-4, Villanova 9-5. Away Record: Cincinnati 6-5, Villanova 2-9. Neutral Record: Cincinnati 1-0, Villanova 1-3. Conference Record: Cincinnati 11-6, Villanova 5-12. Series Record: Villanova leads, 6-2.
GAME NOTES: The Cincinnati Bearcats head into enemy territory looking to continue a strong finish to the regular season as Villanova hosts an important Big East Conference tilt at The Pavilion.
Cincinnati dramatically improved its tournament resume Wednesday with an emphatic 72-61 home triumph over No. 8 Marquette. The Bearcats dominated in most areas of the game despite shooting an underwhelming 40.9 percent from the field, holding the Golden Eagles to a 33.9-percent shooting clip and forcing 17 turnovers. Cincinnati also held lofty advantages in fast-break points (19-5) and points in the paint (42-24), going up 42-26 at the break and building its lead as high as 19 coming down the stretch. Junior JaQuon Parker poured in a career-best 28 points on 10-of-13 shooting for the victors, who won for the fourth time in five games. Dion Dixon added 21 points as the Bearcats improved to 11-6 in Big East play -- good for sixth place in the standings heading into the regular season's final weekend.
Villanova came up with a 77-71 win at Rutgers Thursday to snap a four-game skid. The Wildcats built up a 16-point lead early on and fended off the hosts in the second half after Rutgers cut the lead to four. Villanova shot 50.0 percent from the field and held the Scarlet Knights to a paltry 35.5 percent shooting while holding down a decisive 41-33 edge on the boards. Maalik Wayns and JayVaughn Pinkston led the way with 18 points apiece for Nova, which has dropped seven of nine games overall. Dominic Cheek chipped in 15 points and Mouphtaou Yarou posted 10 points and 11 rebounds as the Wildcats moved to 5-12 in Big East action.
Villanova leads the all-time set with the Bearcats, 6-2, though Cincinnati notched an 82-78 victory Jan. 14 at Fifth Third Arena. The Wildcats won last year's lone meeting, 72-61, at The Pavilion where the hosts own a 3-0 mark versus Saturday's opponent.
The Bearcats are able to maintain one of the conference's better scoring margins at +8.2 thanks in large part to their defense, which holds teams to 60.8 points per game and 41.0 percent shooting from the field. Cincinnati's offense averages 69.0 ppg and shoots 41.9 percent overall, but has one of the league's better three-point shooting percentages at 35.1 percent. A big reason for that success comes from the sophomore Sean Kilpatrick, who leads the Big East with 75 triples on 36.9 percent shooting and tops the Bearcat roster with 14.6 ppg. The senior Dixon follows with a solid 13.5 ppg while Yancy Gates provides 11.7 ppg and a team-high 9.5 rebounds -- good for third in the Big East. Cashmere Wright gives UC a legitimate fourth double-digit scoring option at 10.8 ppg and tops the roster with his 4.5 assists per game. Wright is also second to Kilpatrick in three-pointers with 52 on 38.5 percent shooting, while Parker adds 9.1 ppg and 5.0 rpg to the mix. Cincinnati is pretty even with the opposition when it comes to rebounding, holding a 36.5-35.8 edge on the glass.
The Wildcats are rarely hurting for offense with a quartet of highly-capable scorers, but often succumbs to poor defensive efforts. The junior Wayns is among the conference's elite scorers with a 17.2-point average while contributing a team-high 4.4 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 39 threes. Cheek and Yarou are also consistent contributors, checking in at 13.3 and 10.7 ppg, respectively. The junior Cheek leads the team with 55 three-pointers but on 32.9 percent shooting while fellow junior Yarou stands among the conference's best rebounders with 8.3 per contest. The rising freshman Pinkston adds 10.2 ppg to the mix and is second to Yarou in rebounding with 5.4 per game. Overall, Villanova posts a solid 71.8 ppg but on a league-low 41.2 percent shooting. The defense gives up a near-equal shooting percentage (41.6 percent) and a dead-on equal 71.8 ppg -- second-worst in the Big East. The Wildcats hold down one of the better rebounding margins in the league at +4.7 (39.8-35.1).
The Villanova program has a lot of pride and has endured a down year by its own standards. Finishing up the regular season at home should provide a boost to the team's morale heading into the postseason, but it might not be enough to overcome a tough, defensive-minded Bearcat squad.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cincinnati 72, Villanova 69
03/03 10:37:17 ET