The Cincinnati Bearcats enter Thursday's game against Iowa State 1-2 on the year with losses to Northern Kentucky and Florida State before posting a 65-46 victory at home this past Sunday against Kent State. The Cyclones (2-0) enter the game ranked No. 22 in the AP poll and 16th in the USA Today poll.
The Bearcats are big and like to play physical. They are plus-six in rebounds thus far this year, with almost of third of those being offensive rebounds and second-chance opportunities. They've also been to the free throw line 69 times this year; including going 26-for-32 (81 percent) in their last outing.
"They are more of what you'd expect from a BCS-level team, they are long and athletic," Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said Wednesday. "They have big [players] coming off the bench and most teams don't have that. They will want to set a lot of pressure and play a lot of man-to-man defense."
The strength of the team appears to lie within the teams backcourt with senior Kayla Cook and sophomore Alexis Durley leading the charge, each averaging just under 10 points per game. Durley will drive and likes to generate contact to get to the free throw line where she is shooting 94 percent (17-for-18) and leads the team in assists and steals.
Cook started all 30 games for the Bearcats last season and averages 31 minutes per game, shooting 43 percent from the field and 39 percent from beyond the arc.
"Kayla is a great three point shooter," ISU associate head coach Jodi Steyer said. "She is someone we will really have to know where she is at all time. Last year she was second on the team in assists, so not only is she shooting in well, if she doesn't have an open look she is able to penetrate and kick to an open teammate."
One thing the Cyclones will have to adjust to is the atmosphere. Not only will this be the first road game for Iowa State, but Cincinnati averages less than 600 fans per game. And for a team used to playing in front of 10,000 fans at home, it will be an adjustment.
"That's always a concern," Fennelly said. "That's one of the things where we have to generate our own enthusiasm and our own effort and that's hard. When you are used to playing in front of a big crowd, it is difficult. Sometimes you get lulled to sleep a little bit. We've talk about it. Normally we play music [during practice to generate sound and crowd noise] and we won't be doing any of that stuff."
Added Steyer: "We are blessed to have a great home court advantage with our fans and we get used to that. On the road you have to generate your own enthusiasm, and then you have these freshmen on the court and it's a quiet atmosphere so we will rely on our upperclassmen to generate that energy. It will be interesting to see how we handle that."
"Coach Fennelly is good at addressing this in our meetings, when we play in a smaller arena or in front of a small crowd, how are we going to pick each other up provide that energy that we are so used to feeding off of within Hilton. It will be a good test for our team this early in the season."
"They like to jump the passing lane and are not afraid to take some fouls because they have a little bit of depth. They will block some shots and they have some athleticism on the wing with some length. That's the other thing, it's not just are they big and strong, but they have some kids with some length on the wing, and [those] passes that you got away with the first two games, you won't get away with this time."