The Bearcats have a balanced attack, with scoring punch from all five of their starters. The problem is that UC gets next to no production from its bench, which results in a 65.3 points per game average that ranks 250th in the nation.
Forward John Williamson (Jr., 6-6, 225 lbs.) leads the team in scoring and rebounding at with 13.2 and 7.8 per game, respectively. He is especially active on the offensive glass, where he has hauled down 59 of his 133 total rebounds, but that aggressiveness has led to foul trouble, has he has been bounced from four games due to excessive infractions. Center Marcus Sikes (Jr. 6-8, 235 lbs.) contributes 10.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per outing, but plays more like a forward, as 43% of his shot attempts have come from three point range. He has been forced into duty inside dues to UC's attrition woes, and has acquitted himself well in that role. Cedric McGowan (Sr., 6-7, 230lbs.) rounds out the experienced front line. He records 9.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, and leads the team in blocks with a meager total of 14.
In the backcourt, Deonta Vaughn and Jamual Warren are expected to get the starting nods. Vaughn (Fr., 6-1, 200 lbs.) hoists far more threes than any other Bearcat, but has hit just 28.1% of his 114 tries to date. That figure drags down his overall shooting percentage, but inside the arc he has made 54 of his 110 tries – good numbers for a guard. That results in a team-high 13.7 points per game. Warren (Jr., 6-2, 195 lbs.) averages 8.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per contest. He is even less of a threat from long range, but leads the team in steals with 36.
The bench has been a wasteland in terms of productivity. Only Marvin Gentry (Jr., 6-3, 175 lbs.), a sometime starter who averages 5.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per game, has contributed anything of note in a backup role. Gentry is the primary sub off the bench at more than one position, and thus earns more than 23 minutes per game.
Although WVU just knocked off South Florida, which throttled the Bearcats in the game prior, that doesn't mean West Virginia will easily pick up its first road win of the season in the Queen City on Saturday.
|Sat Jan 20|
Fifth Third Arena
WVU 14-3, 4-2
UC 9-8, 0-3
|Sirius Channel: 130|
WVU - 49
UC - 159
Those factors could be especially important in the early going, when each team will attempt to impose its game plan and construct the game to its liking. West Virginia got off to rough early starts in its two road losses, and needs to have a good start early on this trip to build from. The Mountaineers dug themselves holes from which they could not escape in those two contests, and must avoid similar problems in order to get a win. If the Mountaineers fall behind by double digits again, that order could be too tall to fill.
Cincinnati, meanwhile, has averaged just 25.4 points per first half in its last five outings, and likewise will be looking for more efficient performance in the opening 20 minutes. If it can't improve on those numbers, it might be difficult to get the crowd into the game, which would certainly play to WVU's advantage.
Like Marquette, the Bearcats don't shoot the ball particularly well from the outside. UC makes just 28.9% of its threes, and is barely topping the 40% mark overall. Should it have a hot day, as the Golden Eagles did against the Mountaineers, it will be tough for WVU to come home with a victory.
For the second consecutive year, Cincinnati and WVU will face each other twice in the regular season. The Bearcats return the trip to WVU for the final game of the regular season on March 3. WVU also faces Pitt and Seton Hall twice this season.
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Cincinnati has a 242-37 record in its 17-plus seasons in Fifth Third Arena. Only once during that span has UC suffered consecutive losses in Fifth Third Arena. That occurred last year. With a loss to WVU, the Bearcats would match that, as they dropped an ugly 54-42 decision to Rutgers in their most recent home appearance.
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Rob Summers made ten of his first thirteen free throws of the season. Since then, he is just 2-8. Darris Nichols began the year at 31-33 from the line (including a sweet 10-10 performance against Western Michigan), but since then has gone 4-8. His last miss against South Florida kept him from breaking into double digits in scoring, which would have given WVU five players in that category against the Bulls.
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WVU is chasing Cincinnati in the all-time wins category, and could catch the Bearcats sometime this decade. In its 106 years of basketball Competition, UC is 1,529-876. West Virginia, playing its 98th year, has a record of 1,488-943. The Mountaineers have an outside chance of getting to the 1,500-win mark this year, but that milestone victory will likely come next season