SE Louisiana-Cincinnati Preview
Cincinnati has yet to be challenged as it bears down on playing in the Barclays Center Classic this weekend in New York. That status is likely going to remain the same after Tuesday night's contest versus Southeastern Louisiana.
The 24th-ranked Bearcats (4-0) stormed into this week's Top 25 and have averaged 96.3 points while winning all of their games by at least 25 points. Arkansas-Pine Bluff was the latest overmatched opponent, as Farad Cobb hit four 3-pointers Sunday and finished with 20 points in Cincinnati's 99-50 rout.
The improved efficiency on offense - at least when compared to last season's Bearcats team that went 23-11 and reached the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament despite averaging 62.1 points on 44.6 percent shooting - is staggering. Coach Mick Cronin's team is shooting 50.8 percent, and that's despite a season-low 41.7 percent mark Sunday which was offset by 41 free throws made on a school-record 59 attempts.
"I thought our guys showed great patience in their passing and trying to get the ball inside, that's why we got to the foul line so much," Cronin said. "We can score inside and our guards can drive the ball and get fouled."
The Bearcats have also connected on 3-pointers at a 42.2 percent clip. Since Cronin took over the program in 2006, the high-water mark from beyond the arc was 34.1 percent in 2011-12. Cobb has skewed this season's number higher, sinking 16 of 26 while averaging 16.5 points on 57.5 percent shooting overall.
"It's feeling good right now," said Cobb, who shot 33.3 percent from 3-point range last season. "All summer I spent a lot of time shooting. So, it's just my preparation for the games. Now that I kind of know how it goes, I can pick my shots. Take better shots."
Cincinnati's calling card - its physical defense - has been constant. The Bearcats have limited opponents to 31.8 percent shooting, 54.0 points per game and amassed a plus-12.5 rebound margin.
Any confidence Southeastern Louisiana (1-3) may have gained from defeating Division II Mississippi College last week evaporated with a 92-65 drubbing administered at Nebraska on Sunday. Dimi Cook was the only starter in double figures with 16 points as the Lions missed all 14 of their 3-point attempts and are shooting 23.7 percent from beyond the arc against Division I opponents.
Senior guard Zay Jackson is averaging team highs of 10.0 points and 3.8 assists, and 6-foot-8 Keith Charleston has made 13 of 18 shots and is averaging 7.8 points and a team-best 6.3 rebounds. The undersized Lions, though, are allowing opponents to shoot 49.3 percent from beyond the arc and are being outrebounded by 11.5 per game.
Since the start of the 1996-97 season, Southeastern Louisiana is 0-13 against ranked opponents, with only one defeat coming by single digits.
The Lions will play their remaining two games of the Barclays Center Classic in West Point, New York, against Gardner-Webb and either Army or Arkansas-Pine Bluff.