Preview: UC vs. South Florida

The red-hot 13th ranked Cincinnati Bearcats (20-2 overall; 9-0 AAC) coming off of a hard-fought victory against rival Louisville look to extend their winning streak to 14 coming back home to play South Florida after tough road wins at Temple and Louisville.

The 20-2 start for Cincinnati is the best start under the eight-year tenure of head coach Mick Cronin and their current 13-game winning streak is their longest since starting the 2010-11 campaign at 15-0.

But fighting for their 14th win in a row will not be an easy task against the Bulls of South Florida. Earlier in the season on January 18th, the Bearcats riding a then nine-game winning streak travelled to Tampa and emerged victorious behind the AAC's leading scorer Sean Kilpatrick and Shaquille Thomas' 28 combined points. Cincinnati's stifling defense held South Florida to only 54 points and less than 40% shooting from the field, but the Bearcats were outrebounded 36-30 in the first matchup between these two so they look to rebound from their first performance.

In a media interview, coach Mick Cronin talked about his satisfaction of the win against the Cardinals but he reiterates the focus is now on South Florida.

"This is a tough team and it was great win, but as I said before, we can't be satisfied with complacency. After our win against Louisville Thursday night, pretty much everyone in the nation are now giving these guys pats on the back. We have to learn how not to be satisfied with now, we have to keep working to become better as a team. South Florida's size bothered us and them drawing so many fouls kept the game close throughout so that's one thing we have to work on."

Cronin also talked about recruiting and how his seniors embody the do's instead of the don'ts.

"There are so many layers of recruitment. Can you find the guys that can actually play at the college level? Then we look at their academics. And finally, can we get them? .... The hard thing about recruiting is that there are a lot of good players who are not winners. And talented non-winners will get you fired. Because the fans will look at you based on some genius who gave this kid a four or five-star rating, you're the bum who can't win with him. But in reality, you're not the bum. So you have to be careful, there has to be a mutual admiration there and a winning mentality to succeed as a team."

Speaking of the talented seniors, Justin Jackson and Sean Kilpatrick came up big for the Bearcats against Louisville. After not drawing a foul in the first half, Sean Kilpatrick drew six second-half fouls and made all 11 of his free throw attempts. Kilpatrick fared better in the paint in the second half as well, making 3-of-4 paint field goals after making 1-of-3 in the first half. He finished with 28 points and 5 rebounds.

If they want to win the rebound battle, they must become more aggressive on the boards and such was the value of having Jackson back after he sustained a left ankle sprain in the first half of last Sunday's win over Temple. Despite missing Tuesday's practice, which put his availability in question for Thursday's game, the Bearcats' best defensive player looked just fine running the floor and proved it by making plays on both ends at key moments which resulted in a +11 rebound advantage against the Cardinals.

Cincinnati looks to extend their best start since the 2001-02 season when they started 26-2 and finished the season 31-4, which is still the school record for Cincy.


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