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Game Preview: Cincinnati Bearcats at No. 19 Iowa State

Thursday’s matchup will be a classic showdown of high powered defense vs. high powered offense.

NCAA Basketball: Iowa State at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bearcats are on a three-game winning streak following a loss to Rhode Island, which was ranked No. 21 at the time, in the Naismith Hall of Fame Tip-Off. Although UC’s first battle with a Top 25 team did not go as planned, the Bearcats will hope to bounce back against No. 19 Iowa State, a team known for its offensive power. Mick Cronin will have to have his team ready for battle if the ‘Cats want to bottle up the Cyclone’s attack.

Get to Know the Opponent

The Iowa State Cyclones, who defeated UC 81-79 in a thriller at Fifth Third Arena last season, have been known as one of the best offensive teams in the country for the past few years and have shown no signs of slowing up. The Cyclones, with a 5-1 record, average 88.8 points per game with a crazy 24 point win margin. The team's greatest strength is ball movement, posting 17.3 assists per game while limiting turnovers in the process. They also rank 22nd in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency (112.1) according to KenPom.

The big names to keep track of on the Cyclones are leading scorer and passer, Monte Morris, and leading rebounder Deonte Burton. Morris is a senior guard averaging 16 points per game on 52.6% shooting and firing off 6.5 assists per game. Burton, a 6'5" 250 pound senior leads the charge on the boards with his tremendous size and athleticism. He is bringing down 8.5 rebounds per game and scoring well (14 PPG) in addition. The Cyclones are coming off a loss to No. 8 Gonzaga and will look to prove themselves worthy of staying in the AP polls.

Cracking Down on Defense

Since Mick Cronin stepped onto UC’s campus as head coach of the Bearcats, the team has gained recognition as one of the most aggressive defensive teams in the country. For years, UC has won games with final scores in the high 40's and low 50's and have made even the best of opposing offenses look very sloppy. They say defense wins championships, and although that hasn't worked out for UC (YET!), it always keeps games close.

The Bearcats will need Kyle Washington, Tre Scott and Jarron Cumberland to bring their “A” game with Gary Clark out with injury. Washington has been a standout this year but will need to amp up his efforts on defense to make up for the loss of Clark. Scott put together nine points, nine rebounds, five assists and five blocks as a fill-in for Clark in UC’s last win against Lipscomb and figures to be a major contributor in the absence of last year’s AAC Defensive Player of the Year.

Another man who will need to step up to the plate is Kevin Johnson. Johnson is supposed to be the team’s best perimeter defender and is bound to see a lot of minutes against Iowa State, so he must step up his offensive game so Cronin can confidently keep him in. Defense will be the key to winning this battle with Iowa State. If the Bearcats can create turnovers and force some ugly shots, the Bearcats will frustrate the Cyclones and win the game.

Milestone Watch

Entering last game, Troy Caupain was just 11 points shy of becoming the 50th Bearcat to reach the 1,000 point mark for his career. The senior guard only netted eight points against Lipscomb, falling just short of the milestone. A career 9.3 points per game scorer, Caupain should easily crash that 1,000-point ceiling in this one, likely early on.

Looking Ahead

Although UC’s focus needs to be 100 percent on Iowa State, a peak ahead in the schedule reveals that the Bearcats will host in-state foe Bowling Green at Fifth Third Arena on Sunday.