In late-December, Cincinnati hosted the Temple Owls in what many projected to be a light tune-up game to open the American Athletic Conference schedule for the the Bearcats. However, Temple stormed into Fifth Third Arena and defeated Cincinnati in somewhat convincing fashion in a 77-70 win. Now, Cincinnati gets another shot at the Owls, this time in Philadelphia.
Meet the Opponent
The Owls are 8-7 overall with a 3-2 record in the conference. Compared to the Bearcats, at 13-5 (3-2), this may look to favor Cincinnati, but it's clear that Cincinnati can't afford to overlook Temple after their first contest, in which the Owls has four players reach double-digits, paced by senior guard Quenton DeCosey with 19 points, four rebounds, two assists a steal and a block in 37 minutes.
DeCosey leads the Owls in overall points per game with 15.4, hitting 42.9 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and 44.6 percent from the field. DeCosey is the sort of long-range shooter that has been Cincinnati's kryptonite this season, even though he scored 10 of his 19 points in their previous matchup from the free throw line. Jaylen Bond is the only other Owl averaging double-digit points per game with 10. Three others average over eight points per contest. Bond is the team's leading rebounder, averaging 8.2 per contest with Josh Brown (8.9 points per game) dishing out a team-leading 4.7 assists per game.
Temple is coming off a close road loss to Memphis, 67-65, and was blown out a couple weeks ago by the same Houston team (77-50) that Cincinnati just beat 70-59.
There is no doubt about this game; Cincinnati needs this one. The earlier loss to the Owls has not (and will not) help the Bearcats with their postseason aspirations and Cincinnati will need to right the ship this time around. The Bearcats can hardly afford to trip up the rest of the way if they want to get into the big dance, and this is definitely one they can't afford to drop.
Cincinnati's defense has improved since the late-December meeting with the Owls, but it will be interesting to see if the Bearcats will be able to shut down a Temple offense that did put up 77 on Cincinnati's home floor. In that previous contest, Temple knocked down 45.5 percent of their team three-pointers. The Bearcats have struggled to stop the three-ball at times this season. That's one to watch, especially with DeCosey knocking down deep shots efficiently this season.
Finish the Game
Cincinnati finally closed out a game in their last time out on the floor against Houston. The Cougars fell behind early, but closed the gap late. Cincinnati had struggled to close out teams late in games, but the Bearcats finally did just that en route to a 70-59 win over the Cougars.
Against the Owls, Cincinnati will likely have to handle some adversity like they did against Houston. The records suggest that Cincinnati should run away with this one, but you can't ignore what Temple did in their first meeting. If the game comes down to a pressure-packed close matchup, will Cincinnati be able to close out the game strong?