Saturday, the Cincinnati Bearcats have a monumental showdown against Louisville at the 5/3 Center in front of a sold-out crowd. But first, UC must get by an old nemesis in the East Carolina Pirates on Wednesday at 7:00 PM.
The Bearcats (13-1, 2-0 C-USA) travel to Greenville to face a struggling East Carolina (5-9, 0-2 C-USA) team coming off of a 12-point loss on Saturday to Charlotte.
Regardless of the records, Cincinnati head coach Bob Huggins knows not to take the Pirates lightly.
"The first time we went in there (a couple of years ago), it was really a hard game," Huggins recalled of the first contest when the Pirates joined the league in 1997 on his weekly radio show Monday evening on 700 WLW. "I think we ended up winning by 10, and we left thinking we didn't play very well but by the end of the year everyone was having a tough game."
East Carolina is led in scoring by a 6-4 sophomore, Mike Cook. Cook averages 16.4 points a game, although he's only shooting 39.4% from the field.
With Cook and 6-4 freshman Tom Hammonds, the Pirates have a pair of athletic and talented guards that the Bearcats will need to contain. Hammonds is scoring 7.4 a game.
"It's not just Cook any more," Huggins cautioned. "They were playing Cook at the 2G, but they moved him to SF and brought in Tommy Hammonds. If you think you remember that name, it's because his father played for Ga. Tech and had an NBA career. They (Cook and Hammonds) play physical and create space with their physicality."
The Pirates probably won't match Cincinnati's athleticism, but it may cause a few problems for the Bearcats.
"They play very tough," Huggins added. "They are very physical and do a great job defending."
"We came away the first time we played them thinking that maybe we just didn't play very well, but after the season we realized a lot of teams went in there and struggled against them," he concluded.
In addition to the athletic guards, Cincinnati must also contain East Carolina's 6-10 center, Moussa Badiane, a 220-pound senior from France. Badiane is averaging 11.9 points and 7.9 rebounds a game.
Their power forward, Corey Rouse, is a 6-8 junior averaging nearly a double/double (9.6 points and 9.6 rebounds) a game. Rouse is shooting 49.5% from the field.
What: Cincinnati (13-1, 2-0) vs. East Carolina (5-9, 0-2)
Where: Greenville, N.C. (Minges Coliseum)
When: Wednesday, 7:00 PM ET
Last Meeting: January 28th of last year. Bearcats won 80-57 @ Cincinnati
PG – Jihad Muhammad (5-11 jr.)
SG – Armein Kirkland (6-8 jr.)
SF – James White (6-8 jr.)
PF – Eric Hicks (6-6 jr.)
F/C – Jason Maxiell (6-8 sr.)
PG – Japhet McNeil (5-11 so.)
SG – Tom Hammonds (6-4 frosh.)
SF – Mike Cook (6-4 so.)
PF – Corey Rouse (6-8 jr.)C – Moussa Badiane (6-10 sr.)