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Previewing Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Cincinnati

Three up and three down. The fourth victim for the chopping block is the Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions, who will head into Fifth Third Arena to tango with the Bearcats Sunday afternoon.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

What would win in a fight, a golden lion or a bearcat? The easy answer is golden lion. Lions are massive creatures, known as the 'King of the Jungle'. They can weigh more than 400 pounds and be up to eight feet long. That is some serious business.

In contrast, a bearcat is a much smaller beast, usually weighing about 71 pounds. The only scenario in which a bearcat could win is if the arena for the fight was conducive to its particular set of skills. I'd imagine a wooded and dark area might lead to a mistake from the lion, opening up a lane for the bearcat to swoop in and maybe slash open an important blood vessel.

Hypothetical questions like that are a load of fun to discuss. However, if you tweak it to who would win in a game of basketball, a golden lion or a bearcat, you're taking the bearcat every time.

Agree or disagree, we will find out what the correct answer is on Sunday when the undefeated Cincinnati Bearcats clash with the Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions at Fifth Third Arena. Here's what you need to know before the game.

First Scare

Scare might be the wrong word. Slight uneasiness or discomfort might be a more apt description. Wednesday's road contest against Bowling Green provided a little bit of discomfort for Cincinnati. Word choice aside, Cincinnati did not dominate as thoroughly against the Falcons as it did in the first two games, at least in the first half. The Bearcats only led by four points at halftime after putting forth their worst shooting half of the year (44%). They also turned the ball over nine times after doing so only 11 times in the entire 40 minutes of the Robert Morris contest.

The fear is now a distant memory, as the Bearcats lit the entire second half on fire, drilling 48.8 percent of their field goal tries in the final 20 minutes, including a 7-of-17 effort from long distance. As has become apparent, the Bearcats are leaning a bit more on 3-point shooting than usual, ranking 57th in the country in 3-point attempts (68). Last year, they finished 293rd.

In all, it's tough to call an 83-50 win an actual 'scare', but that first half showed that despite all their strength, the Bearcats must remain vigilant.

Cobb Crushing

During the 3-point rain storm in the second half against Bowling Green, Farad Cobb sank four triples. The senior guard has been excellent across all six halves this season, shooting a blistering 55.2 percent from the field, despite only taking nine shots from inside the 3-point line. Cobb, along with Kevin Johnson, are sparking the 3-point renaissance for the Bearcats, with the duo combining for 19 treys on 40 attempts. Cobb has 12 of those buckets and is nailing 60 percent of his attempts. With his game-high 20-point effort against Bowling Green, Cobb is now the only Bearcat to score in double figures in every game this season. If Mick Cronin wants to follow the feed-the-hot-hand strategy, he can find none more scorching that Cobb's.

Building Blocks

A lot has been made of Cincinnati's offensive eruption to open up the season. But let us not forget our long-time friend and confidant defense. The Bearcats are doing just fine in that respect, holding opponents to just 32 percent shooting, which ranks 19th nationally. In addition, they are 20th in points allowed (55.3 PG) and 23rd in turnovers forced (52). They have been particularly difficult to score on near the rim. In fact, their three opponents have combined for only 75 2-point baskets, the 12th-lowest total in the country.

The failure of foes to score from in close is primarily due to a long list of shot blockers that have helped keep shots from falling. Cincinnati has had at least seven rejections in each game this season and is currently third in the land in swatted field goal tries (23). It isn't just Gary Clark (six blocks) and Octavius Ellis (five) either. Coreontae DeBerry (four) has lent a hand, as has Shaq Thomas (three) and Jacob Evans (three), who is proving that he is more than just an offensive spark plug.