The Cincinnati Bearcats (21-2 overall; 10-0 AAC) right now are sitting pretty in the AP Poll at #7 in the country and they are looking to keep their success going against the 22nd ranked Connecticut Huskies on Thursday night at Fifth Third Arena. The Bearcats are riding a 14-game winning streak including a 17-game home winning streak. A win on Thursday night will set the arena record for most home wins to start a season.
In his eighth year at the helm of being the head coach, Mick Cronin is off to his best overall start and best conference start. And a lot of the thanks must go to senior guard Sean Kilpatrick who was recently named the American Athletic Conference's Player of the Week after averaging 23 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists in two wins last week. Kilpatrick continues to lead the AAC in scoring (19.4 points per game), ranks second in three-pointers made (2.6) and third in free-throw shooting percentage (86.8 percent). Over the last six games for the Bearcats, Kilpatrick has been on a hot streak scoring 22.5 points per contest.
The opponent however will be no pushover for the 'Cats. The Huskies come into the game riding a three-game winning streak, their most recent victory coming against the University of Houston with a score of 80-43. Unlike the Bearcats' last game when they were forced to deal with the size of South Florida's big men, Cincinnati will have to deal with three of the highest scorers of the American Athletic Conference for the Huskies with Shabazz Napier (third at 17.9 points), DeAndre Daniels (15th at 13.4 points), and Ryan Boatright (18th at 12.4 points). Napier by far is the most dangerous attribute for the Huskies that the Bearcats will focus on to contain. Napier is ranked at the top of the AAC in assists per game (5.7), second in free-throw shooting percentage (87.6 percent), and sixth in three-point percentage (43.5 percent).
In a media interview with coach Mick Cronin, he talked about how to contain the high-powered offense that UConn possesses,
"We know that this is a high-powered offense that we're playing against. With their two fiery guards (Napier and Boatright) putting points on the board, we know that we have to be 100% prepared for it. What we learned in games against Xavier and New Mexico, if you have teams that are able to spread you out defensively, you're in trouble."
When asked if Shabazz Napier is one of the best players in the AAC, Cronin replied,
"You have to rank him up there in this league along with He's a dynamite player. He's ranked third in the league in points per game, and when you watch him play, he sinks shots that you would see Kobe Bryant take and they're hitting the bottom of the net. So when he gets in a rhythm like that its scary."
With all of the success that the Bearcats have experienced thus far, senior forward Justin Jackson continues his grind to keep winning games for his team.
"To be honest, it hasn't hit me yet," Jackson said in an interview. "All that I'm really focused on is keep winning game for the team and getting better every game....But honestly, it feels like the Miami Heat vibe. Doesn't get any bigger than the Heat."