Cincinnati-Nebraska Preview - Sports Illustrated

Cincinnati-Nebraska Preview

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Cincinnati cruised during the first 10 days of the season before finally being tested its last time out.

The 24th-ranked Bearcats seem to be in for another challenge this weekend in the Barclays Center Classic in Brooklyn, starting with Friday night's matchup against a Nebraska team that won last season's meeting in double overtime.

The Bearcats (5-0) won their first four games by an average of 42.3 points to move into the Top 25 for the first time in two seasons Monday, but they found themselves leading by three midway through the second half the next night against visiting Southeastern Louisiana.

Cincinnati was able to pull out a 64-49 win thanks to a closing 15-7 run, though it shot a season-low 40.7 percent and was held 32.3 points below its season average.

"We had not been in a game, so it's good for us to get in a little bit of a game, maybe wake our guys up a little bit," coach Mick Cronin said. "We're not very tough right now. Things have been too easy for us, way too easy for us."

That wasn't the case in Nebraska last season. The Bearcats beat the visiting Cornhuskers 74-59 in December 2013 before traveling to Lincoln last December and losing 56-55 in double OT.

"As bad as (Tuesday) was, I think it gives us a chance on Friday because Nebraska has been in a game at Villanova in that little pavilion," Cronin told the school's official website. " ... I really believe that we would have been in deep trouble Friday if we had not been in some sort of a game, not that I'm happy. That's the only thing that gives me joy tonight."

The visit to then-No. 11 Villanova resulted an 87-63 loss Nov. 17. The Cornhuskers (4-1) have since won three in a row after beating Arkansas-Pine Bluff 67-44 on Tuesday.

They shot 38.2 percent and went 2 of 19 from 3-point range for the game but were able to build an 18-point halftime lead by holding the Golden Lions to 16 points.

Freshman Glynn Watson Jr. provided a spark off the bench by hitting a 3-pointer and adding three assists during a 15-3 spurt to close the first half.

"That was a good opportunity for him to kind of lead the team, lead the bunch," said guard Andrew White III, who led the Huskers with 16 points. "When you're the point guard, the ball is in your hands. I think he made good decisions. I think he grew up a little bit before our eyes."

Shavon Shields was the only other Husker in double figures with 15 points, and he scored 13 in last season's meeting with Cincinnati. Troy Caupain had 13 points for the Bearcats in that matchup and scored a season-high 15 on Tuesday.

Nebraska has lost seven in row against ranked teams and is 64-240 all-time in such matchups.

"We'll be ready for Cincinnati and if we're not it is going to be a bloodbath. It will not be pretty because they are a very talented team," coach Tim Miles said. " ... Their press is really difficult to go against. I would say it's like Villanova's on steroids. They stay on you and make it a very physical game. That will be great for this team to see who steps up to the challenge."

Friday's winner will face George Washington (5-0) or Tennessee (4-1) in the championship game Saturday.