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Layup Line: Houston, Again

Do or die time for the Cincinnati Bearcats. Can they right the ship in Texas this weekend? Or will a victory against Houston just delay in the inevitable?

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Room for error? Not in Cincinnati. Not this year. Not for a team that lost its suit-wearing general, and especially not for a team that's lacked an on-court general all year. Not the Bearcats. Not in 2015.

But isn't that how it goes in Cincinnati? Blue collar. Hard working. Nose to the grind. Room for error? When was the last time someone gave Mick Cronin or the Cincinnati Bearcats room for error?

1 returning scholarship player? Picked over recruits? Give me an underclassmen from the football squad and we'll knock off a top 25 WVU team.

Rebuild a dead-on-arrival program in the toughest conference in the country? Give me Georgetown and Syracuse on the way to a championship game in Madison Square Garden.

Head coach sidelined due to unexpected health issues? Start writing the script...

You know the story. Been there. Done that. That's Cincinnati. There's never any room for error.

  • Game: Saturday, February 21 @ 9:30pm ET
  • Location: Hofheinz Pavilion; Houston, TX
  • TV/Radio: ESPNU; 700 WLW

"Are they tough enough mentally to sustain that focus in practice, [that] focus in games?" asked interim head coach Larry Davis about his Bearcats on Friday."And know that if you maintain that mental toughness, eventually it turns."

It's been a roller coaster this year, and the ride's almost over. Keep your seat belts on for a few more weeks, passengers, because - contrary to popular opinion - the ride's not over. Not for Cincinnati. Not for the Bearcats.

And, yes it's cliche, but UC's next winning streak can only happen if they travel to Houston and take care of business. They'll face a Cougar squad they previously topped by 13 here in Cincinnati last month. Back when the 'Cats seemed like a different team. And what's in store on Saturday night?

A Houston team with "no center and no real low post guys" according to Davis. Maybe this means we'll see less of UC's match-up zone and more man-to-man this weekend? Part of that probably depends on whether the Cougars are throwing it in like Dee Davis.

The Cougars will hoist some threes, now. They've put up over 660 so far this year - compared to just 404 for the Bearcats. And you thought UC just stood around and chucked it from deep?

Head coach Kelvin Sampson leads a slowly-improving team, though. A squad that knocked off UConn just a couple weeks ago, the Cougars have only lost their last three by a combined 10 points.

What the 'Cats have to do to win:

  • Guard the 3. Seems pretty simple. Houston takes a lot. The more they miss, the better. Basketball 101, folks. The Cougars wen't 8-20 against UC in their loss earlier this year.
  • Make the free ones. UH averages 18 fouls a game on the year, and the Bearcats free throw percentage has been slowly slipping as of late. It won't be hack-a-Shaq, but UC needs to continue to feed the ball down low and make their free throws.

If there's a sour taste in your mouth, I get it. The Crosstown Shootout sucked. Grab some mouthwash, rinse, and repeat. Those faint beeps you hear mean the flatline hasn't sounded yet. And they'll be reason for hope come Sunday morning: Bearcats win 57-52.