December 02, 2015

Mick Cronin isn't putting too much stock into Cincinnati's unbeaten start. He's more worried about his team improving ahead of the American Athletic Conference season.

The No. 17 Bearcats are in for their toughest test yet Wednesday night when they face Butler for the first time in 18 years.

Cincinnati (7-0) is aiming for its best start since going 12-0 in 2012-13. The Bearcats started the season unranked, jumped into the poll at No. 24 on Nov. 23 and now have jumped seven spots.

"Didn't know and don't care," Cronin said. "This time of year, you better be focused on getting better.

"I've said this a million times 'there's two seasons; pre-Christmas and post-Christmas.' It's much harder to win games post-Christmas. You gotta be focused on whether your team is improving. That's all my concern is."

Lately, Cronin is worried about Cincinnati's drop in offensive production. The Bearcats are averaging 63.3 points while making 40.4 percent from the floor over the last three games after scoring 96.3 points and shooting 50.8 percent over the first four games.

They've used their trademark defense to keep rolling, allowing 54.6 points per contest and 34.7 percent from the field on the season.

Another solid defensive effort was key to Saturday's 61-56 victory over George Washington to win the Barclays Center Classic. Cincinnati shot 41.5 percent from the field - 7 of 22 from long range - but held the Colonials to 37.5 percent shooting.

The Bearcats have won 49 straight games when scoring at least 60 points.

Troy Caupain is showing improvement, averaging 16.0 points over the last three games after putting up 6.5 through the first four. Farad Cobb, however, has followed a pair of 20-point performances by totaling 15 points while making 6 of 20 from the floor over the last three games.

Cincinnati is 10-6 all-time against Butler (4-1), but they haven't met since the Bearcats won 86-69 in the opening round of the 1997 NCAA Tournament.

The Bulldogs are fourth in the country at 95.0 points per game and are shooting 52.6 percent from the floor.

"Butler is synonymous with winning. They're hard to play against because they just don't give away games," Cronin said. "If you beat them, you're going to have to earn it. You're going to have to make some shots and you're going to have to play really hard."

The Bulldogs shot 56.6 percent while beating SIU-Edwardsville 89-73 on Saturday, but coach Chris Holtmann is expecting things to be a lot tougher Wednesday.

"We love games like this," Holtmann said. "We scheduled this game knowing they were going to be really tough, probably a Top 25 team. It's going to be a home-and-home against an outstanding opponent. We wanted this. We asked for it. We'll see what we get here."

Kellen Dunham leads the Bulldogs with 21.2 points per game. The senior guard has totaled 55 over the last two after matching his career high with 32 while sinking 10 of 15 from the floor Saturday.

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