Some Cincinnati basketball fans may not be noticing, but the Bearcat men's basketball squad has been showing steady improvement this season as they head into Freedom Hall to open BIG EAST Conference play against the Louisville Cardinals at 2:30 on New Year's Day.
Mick Cronin's Bearcats ended a five game losing streak with a nice 56-50 win over a tough Miami Redhawk squad last Saturday night at U.S. Bank Arena. The Redhawks are the only common opponent for the two BIG EAST schools this season. The Cardinals defeated Miami in Freedom Hall on December 1st by a 47-44 final score.
Louisville brings a disappointing 9-3 record into the 90th meeting between the two rivals and began the season ranked #6 in both the AP and ESPN polls. Upset losses to unranked foes like Brigham Young, Dayton and Purdue have dropped the Cardinals out of both national polls.
It's been a bit of a tumultuous season for Rick Pitino's Cardinals. Starting center David Padgett broke his kneecap on November 18 and was expected to be out of action for ten weeks, but the Bearcats wouldn't be surprised if Padgett plays against them. The Cardinals also lost 7' 1" center Clarence Holloway and 6' 8" George Goode prior to the season. Holloway had heart surgery while Goode failed to meet NCAA eligibility standards. Adding to the problems has been 6' 9" sophomore Derrick Caracter, who served a suspension during the season, and 6' 8" Juan Palacios who missed time with a torn cartilage in his right knee. Both Caracter and Palacios are expected to play against the Bearcats on Tuesday afternoon.
The Bearcats will take a 5-7 record into their BIG EAST opener, but Cincinnati has played a brutal December schedule with five out of its six games away from Fifth Third Arena. The sole home game was against the #2 ranked Memphis Tigers.
Louisville is led by its frontcourt players. Derrick Caracter leads the Cardinals in scoring with 12.9 points a game and 7.9 rebounds a contest. Terrence Williams is a 6' 6" junior forward scoring 12.7 points and adding 7.7 rebounds while 6' 8" sophomore Earl Clark leads the squad in rebounding with 10.7 caroms and scoring 12.5 points a game. Rounding out the starting five will be 5' 10" junior Andre McGee and 6' 1" sophomore Jerry Smith at the guards. To add a little more local flavor, Josh Chichester from Lakota West High School was recently added to the basketball team. The 6' 8" Chichester is a member of the Cardinal football squad.
The game will be televised on ESPN at 2:30 p.m. on New Years' Day. Bob Wischusen will call the play-by-play, and Tom Brennan and Doug Gottlieb will be the analysts.
Bearcats Begin BIG EAST Play
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