Game Preview: No. 21 Cincinnati at Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers basketball has its best Big East start in school history and puts an impressive two-game run on the line against No. 21 Cincinnati at 8 p.m. The physical Bearcats ranked as high as eighth in the country this year before losing three of its last four. Rutgers is 2-1 since coach Mike Rice's return from suspension.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Rutgers checks in at No. 41 in the RPI rankings and has a winning Big East record for the first time in coach Mike Rice's tenure, but the momentum could come to a screeching halt at the RAC Saturday night.

Because when No. 21 Cincinnati comes to town, Rutgers sees its toughest opponent since the 25-point blowout loss to Syracuse.

The Bearcats, as high as No. 8 in the polls this season, have had five days of rest to prepare for the Scarlet Knights with the goal of ending a two-game skid.

"It's going to be a street fight," said senior Rutgers forward Austin Johnson. "Those guys are tough, physical. They'll hit us each and every play and we have to hit back. We have to be the ones to put the pressure back on them. It's going to be a battle."

The Scarlet Knights (11-3, 2-1) are well aware of where they stand when it comes to modern Rutgers basketball, but have no interest beyond Cincinnati.

"I know we've never had a winning record in the Big East, so I know what that win means," said sophomore guard Myles Mack. "Right after the game, nobody was really talking about it. I guess that's good that nobody's still looking at that win and getting caught up in it. We have to keep our composure."

Cincinnati kicked off its season with 11 straight wins, but is in the middle of a 1-3 slump.

Facing leading scorer Sean Kilpatrick (17.7 points per game) and seasoned guard Cashmere Wright (14.3 points and 3.6 assists per game), Rutgers has sights set on a second straight RAC victory over the Bearcats.

"I hope people realize that this team is doing things that hasn't happened in a while here and I hope they become excited about it," said Rutgers head coach Mike Rice. "My guys deserve it. They work tremendously hard. A lot of them have been here for two years and that process was a struggle at times. I hope people are excited about this team and excited about the direction of this team. Because if the RAC is the way it is, we're going to win our fair share of games here."

Inside the Numbers

Five -- The last time Cincinnati faces Rutgers on five days' rest, a Dane Miller double-double gave Rutgers a seven-point victory at the RAC.

Two -- Rutgers has the two best free-throw shooters in the Big East in Myles Mack (91.7) and Eli Carter (90.4).

37 -- Miller needs 37 points to reach 1,000 for his career. Tonight is expected to be his 39th straight start.

1979 -- The last time Rutgers basketball held a spot in a top 25 poll. Mike Rice was 10 years old.

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