DePaul Blue Demons vs. Cincinnati Bearcats – Saturday, February 4th, 6:00 p.m. Central – Cincinnati, Ohio
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Bearcats in the dog house after three straight losses
Last week Mick Cronin referred to this juncture of the season as the "Dog days", in reference to the bumps and bruises and general malaise that sets in after a two-month grind. But following three consecutive losses the Bearcats clearly were residing in Cronin's dog house.
"Right now, I don't want to be around them," Cronin said following Saturday's loss at Rutgers. "I'm about as embarrassed to be the coach of this team as I've ever been. I'm miserable."
It's difficult to point to one aspect that has contributed to the Bearcats' recent slide but one that stands out is 3-point shooting. UC evolved into a 3-point shooting team while its three big men were suspended following the December brawl with Xavier. Since then the Bearcats' fortunes appear to hinge on their success beyond the arc.
If there ever was a team that live and dies by the 3-point shot it's this one. UC leads the Big East Conference in 3-point shooting percentage at 36.5 percent, but ranks last in the league in overall field goal percentage. In its past three games UC has shot 27 percent from 3-point range (21-for-78), all losses.
Cronin's tirade had been simmering for more than a week. The loss at West Virginia was in overtime in a tough environment on the road and against former UC head coach Bob Huggins. In the loss to Syracuse the Bearcats held the lead for much of the game until the Orange closed it out with a 16-5 run. And Syracuse was 20-0 and ranked No. 1 less than 48 hours before.
But the trends continued on Saturday when the Bearcats dropped a 61-54 decision to Rutgers, a team with a sub-.500 Big East record that they'd beaten five straight times. Cronin didn't want to discuss 3-point shooting, but rather that they were outrebounded 32-21 and committed 14 turnovers.
It's a good time for the Bearcats to have a week off. They don't play again until Feb. 4 when they host DePaul. So six days to exit Cronin's dog house.
Despite injuries, Kilpatrick keeps streak alive
--Sean Kilpatrick has been playing through a groin pull which occurred in the Jan. 14 game at Villanova and a hip pointer that happened a week later at West Virginia. Despite the nagging injuries Kilpatrick maintained a streak of 21 straight games with a made 3-pointer. Kilpatrick leads the Big East Conference with 2.8 3-pointers per game through Jan. 28. He has scored in double figures in 19 of 22 contests.
--Senior G Dion Dixon responded with a team-leading 17 points in a Jan. 28 loss at Rutgers after a sub-par 5-point outing in the loss to Syracuse. Dixon earned Big East Conference player of the week honors on Jan. 16 after scoring a season-high 22 points in wins at then-No. 11 Georgetown and vs. Villanova.
--While UC has primarily been a perimeter team of late, Yancy Gates has made the most of his opportunities in the middle. Gates had 16 points and eight rebounds Jan. 28 in a loss at Rutgers, making it five straight games in double figures for the senior forward who's had three double-doubles in that stretch.
BY THE NUMBERS: 5.7 -- Average margin of defeat for Cincinnati in consecutive losses to West Virginia, Syracuse and Rutgers from Jan. 21-28.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Anybody who loses three games in a row in January better decide what they're going to do. They're either going to tough it up or they're going to pack it in." -- Mick Cronin after his team's third straight loss, 61-54 at Rutgers.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--vs. DePaul, Feb. 4
KEY MATCHUPS: Through 20 games the Blue Demons were averaging 74.6 points on offense, but giving up the same amount on defense. DePaul, which ranked 11th in the Big East Conference in 3-point percentage defense, might be just the cure for UC's 3-point shooting woes. Cleveland Melvin, who averaged 17.8 points through 20 games, is DePaul's top scoring threat.
--G Sean Kilpatrick is playing hurt. He suffered a groin injury on Jan. 14 against Villanova and then a hip pointer on Jan. 21 at West Virginia. Kilpatrick admitted last week to experiencing pain during games, especially moving laterally on defense and sprinting up the court.
--G Cashmere Wright led the Bearcats with 14.4 points in a four-game stretch before facing Rutgers on Jan. 28. He had scored in double figures in each of those games before scoring just three points in a loss at Rutgers.
The Last Time
On February 8, 2011, at Allstate Arena, the Blue Demons came back from a 17 point second half deficit before succumbing to Cincinnati 71-68.
With 0.4 seconds left on the clock, DePaul's Jimmy Drew had a chance to tie the game, but his three point try rimmed out to end the game.
The Bearcats were led by Sean Kilpatrick with 19 points. Ibrahima Thomas added 16 points and Cashmere Wright chipped in with 10 points.
The Blue Demons struggled from the free throw line going eight of 16 from the charity stripe.
Cleveland Melvin led all scorers with 20 points. Brandon Young contributed with 16 points. Moses Morgan scored a career-high 13 points including two for four from beyond the arc.
NO NAME HT WT POS CL EXP Hometown/High School/Last College
0 Jeremiah Davis III 6-3 200 G FR HS Muncie, Ind./Huntington Prep (W.Va.)
3 Dion Dixon 6-3 195 G SR 3L Chicago, Ill./Crane Technical Prep Common
2 Octavius Ellis 6-9 210 F FR HS Memphis, Tenn./Whitehaven
10 Alex Eppensteiner 6-3 210 G JR 2L Cincinnati, Ohio/Elder
24 Kelvin Gaines 6-10 225 C RS FR HS Ocala, Fla./Arlington Country Day
34 Yancy Gates 6-9 260 F SR 3L Cincinnati, Ohio/Withrow
14 Ge'Lawn Guyn 6-1 175 G FR HS Georgetown, Ky./South Kent Prep (Conn.)
5 Justin Jackson 6-8 210 F SO 1L Cocoa Beach, Fla./Arlington Country Day
23 Sean Kilpatrick 6-4 215 G/F SO 1L White Plains, N.Y./Notre Dame Prep
13 Cheikh Mbodj 6-10 245 C JR TR Dakar, Senegal/Grayson County (Texas) College
44 Jaquon Parker 6-3 210 G JR 2L Suffolk, Va./King's Fork
15 Jermaine Sanders 6-5 225 F FR HS Far Rockaway, N.Y./Rice High School
11 Shaquille Thomas 6-7 180 F FR HS Paterson, N.J./NIA Prep
1 Cashmere Wright 6-0 175 G JR 2L Savannah, Ga./Urban Christian Academy