By Austin Carpenter
With conference play right around the corner, the Cincinnati Bearcats welcome their final out-of-conference foe, the Iowa State Cyclones, into Fifth Third Arena tonight in a matchup that features one of the best offense teams in the nation in the Cyclones against a defensive juggernaut, headed by ten-year head coach Mick Cronin. It’s a huge challenge for the bearcats who are looking to avoid their third loss to teams currently ranked in the Top 25 (recently losing to Butler and Xavier).
The Cyclones come into the Queen City hoisting a 9-1 record with a No. 11 ranking in the latest AP poll, falling six spots from No. 5 after their loss to Northern Iowa over the weekend. They are led by preseason All-American Georges Niang and first-year head coach Steve Prohm.
With this game being broadcasted on ESPN2, this is an opportunity for the Bearcats to gain some national credibility.
“This is a chance for our guys to get some exposure,” said UC coach Mick Cronin. “They got guys like Niang, Monte Morris, and Jameel McKay that are talked about nationally and this is an opportunity for our guys to put their [own] names on the map.”
Niang, a senior forward who stands at 6-foot-8 averages 18.7 points a game and sits at the ten spot on the all-time scoring list in Iowa State history. He comes into Tuesday night averaging 22 points per game over his last four, including a 30-point outburst in the loss to Northern Iowa.
McKay, a 6-9 senior forward for the Cyclones, comes into Cincinnati averaging a double-double with 15.3 points while snatching nearly 11 rebounds a game. Junior guard Monte Morris comes in averaging 14.3 points and is fifth in the country averaging 7.7 assists per contest.
This will be a great opportunity for the Bearcats to prove to the country that they are a legitimate threat this year and can challenge and win the American Athletic Conference. They will have to use their stout defense to slow down the Cyclones who, like VCU, enjoying getting out into transition.
“If we can limit their transition opportunities then we will be alright,” said Cronin. “We cannot allow them to run on us and control the pace of the game.”
The stage is set once again for some of the NBA hopefuls on the Bearcats roster. Sophomore forward Gary Clark will be the most likely to stick Niang while in the game. Clark is a 6-foot-8 235-pound rebounding machine who is recognized by many as a future NBA talent. Clark’s front-court partner, Octavius Ellis, will be matched up with McKay. The 6-10 senior comes into Tuesday’s matchup averaging just over 10 points a game, while bringing down 7.8 boards.
It is also a chance for some of the younger Bearcats to accentuate their talents. Freshman forward Jacob Evans gives coach Mick Cronin valuable minutes off the bench. The Baton Rouge native averages eight points per game and is third on the team shooting 35 percent from behind the arc.
Freshman guard Justin Jenifer will get plenty of playing time as the Cats will need to keep Caupain fresh. “Justin will get more minutes at the point for us,” Cronin stated. “His talent allows us to not worry about letting Troy sit a few minutes.” Jenifer averages 3.8 points a game while shooting 40% from the floor.
Cronin intends to use senior Farad Cobb as a key contributor for the offense against the Cyclones. The 6-foot-1 guard is leading the American Athletic Conference shooting 47.1 percent from three-point range.
The Bearcatsexpecting a sellout crowd Tuesday night which is exactly what you would think would happen for a Top 20 matchup.
“These are the games that you sign up for,” said Caupain. “Both teams have guys that want to play at the professional level which makes us want to play even harder.”
Tip-off at UC is set for 7:30pm with doors opening at 5:00pm.