Cincinnati will be rolling out these blackout unis for the game. These probably won’t replace the standard black jerseys the Bearcats usually wear on the road but they look pretty darn spiffy and are a solid recruiting tool.
Let’s get to the game. So the Bearcats take on the Fighting Irish tonight and they’re in the middle of a funk. Cincinnati is struggling to score points from anywhere on the court despite playing pretty good defense. Sean Kilpatrick himself sure could us a slumpbuster as he’s seen his field goal and 3pt percentage slip and slip and slip in the past few weeks. His current 32% FG percentage is the lowest of his career and since mid-December he’s shot just 23% from beyond the arc. That’s just not going to get it done.
The good news heading into tonight is that the Bearcats will host Notre Dame in their only matchup this season. The key word there is host. Since the 2007-08 season Cincinnati is 3 – 3 against the Irish in regular season play. All 3 losses have come in South Bend and all 3 wins have come at home in the friendly confines of Fifth Third Arena. No matter how either team is performing at this point in the season, this pattern in the last several years can’t be overlooked.
The specifics of the game after the jump.
Like most Mike Brey-led Irish teams this Notre Dame squad scores points and scores a lot of them. They average over 77 points per game which is third best in the Big East and their 51.5% field goal percentage leads the conference and is third best nationally. The key again this year is exceptional ball movement, efficiency with the basketball, and not turning it over. The Fighting Irish boast an exceptional assist/turnover ratio of 1.83 which is only bested by the Pitt Panthers on a national level. The good news is that Cincinnati, despite creating much of its offense off of turnovers, beat Pittsburgh a week ago even though didn’t force many mistakes. If the Bearcats can use a similar gameplan things could go their way tonight.
Players To Watch
Jerian Grant (#22) and Eric Atkins (#0): The Fighting Irish operate a very fluid and fast moving half-court offense. The catalyst of this is Grant and Atkins who combine for almost 13 (!!!) assists per game to just about 4 turnovers per game. That’s a very solid 3.25 assist/turnover ratio for the pair who also lead Notre Dame in points from the guard position. I’d expect Cashmere Wright to matchup with Atkins and a combination of Sean Kilpatrick and Jaquon Parker to man up on Grant. Keeping this two out of rhythm will go a long way to slowing down the Fighting Irish’s prolific offense and Cincinnati’s three guards are more than capable of accomplishing this.
Jack Cooley (#45) vs. Whoever The Hell Elects To Try To Stop Him: The Notre Dame senior is an outstanding player on the glass who uses his big body to literally own a 3-4 ft area around the bucket. He leads the Fighting Irish with 11.4 rebounds per game. No other player on the team comes even close to him. Even more so he’s a menace on the offense, gobbling up almost 5 per game and most importantly, unlike Cincinnati’s big men, he’s turning those rebounds into easy points, shooting an impressive 63.7% from the field. It’s this dominance in the paint that has caused him to lead Notre Dame in points per game with 15.5 each outing. So man-to-man the Bearcats have quite a task ahead of them slowing him down. I’m sure Mick Cronin will cycle between Cheikh Mbodj and David Nyarsuk but both will have to play outside their minds to keep Cooley in check.
Final Thoughts and Prediction
This looks like another bad matchup for the Bearcats. Against New Mexico the Lobos used Alex Kirk to control the paint and ultimately beat Cincinnati. On Saturday, St. John’s also dominated around the bucket and won. Tonight I fear that Jack Cooley and the Irish will repeat that formula for victory against the ‘Cats. I really, really want to pick UC because of their history against Notre Dame in Fifth Third Arena but I can’t do that for this game. The Bearcats just aren’t playing like a complete team right now. Sorry, everybody.
Notre Dame: 70