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Game Preview: South Florida Bulls at Cincinnati Bearcats

Cincinnati hosts the South Florida Bulls at Fifth Third Arena, with Memphis looming.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati basketball got a little bit of a break after winning an exciting game against at UConn last week, 58-57. A Gary Clark three-point play lifted the Bearcats in the huge conference clash and left them in striking distance of SMU in the AAC. While Cincinnati rested, SMU fell to Houston Monday, leaving Cincinnati only 1.5 games out from the conference lead. The Bearcats are back on the floor tonight against South Florida.

Meet the Opponent

We aren't really "meeting" the Bulls, but revisiting them after Cincinnati defeated South Florida, 54-51 on January 10. South Florida enters the matchup 5-18 on the season overall with a 2-8 record in conference. That said, the Bulls have won two of their last three. Both wins were on the road by double-digits, coming against a bad Tulane squad and the enigmatic Houston Cougars. South Florida only lost by seven points to Temple in their last contest.

Jahmal McMurray remains the Bulls engine, scoring 14.9 points per game and leading the team from three, shooting 34.5%. McMurray had 16 points against Cincinnati in their previous matchup. South Florida is only averaging 10 assists per game as a team and Roddy Peters leads them with 3.5.

The good news for Cincinnati fans is that South Florida struggles with the deep shot, hitting only 27.6% on the season. The Bearcats have let teams go off from beyond the arc this season, but in their last meeting, the Bulls couldn't capitalize themselves, only going 2-of-9 (22%).

On paper, Cincinnati should win big, but that's what we were thinking heading into their previous matchup, where the Bearcats only squeaked out a three-point win.

Momentum

Speaking of what should happen, we settle in on the topic of momentum. Cincinnati has it. Despite a tough stretch against the likes of Xavier, Iowa State, Temple and SMU that had some calling for Mick Cronin's job, the Bearcats have righted the ship.

It appears that way at least.

With wins over Houston (how good are they really?), Memphis, UConn and the total annihilation of Tulane sandwiched in between, Cincinnati is on a tear. However, that naturally leads to concern that South Florida is the team that gets overlooked, especially with a road contest against Memphis looming on Saturday. South Florida shouldn't have a chance in this one, but Cincinnati will need to come out playing aggressively and pushing tempo if they want to finish the game early.

Look for Cincinnati to approach this game much like they did the Tulane contest where the Bearcats led 20-5 after five minutes of game play. How Cincinnati handles this potential trap game could have a tremendous impact on the conclusion of their season.