Following a convincing home win against the hapless South Florida Bulls, Cincinnati takes the road to face off with the Memphis Tigers. Cincinnati has been on a tear, as of late, winning four in a row, since a two-point double-overtime loss to Temple on January 16.
Gary Clark has been a big reason for Cincinnati's recent string of success, dominating the boards, knocking down shots and even calling upon some late-game heroics against Connecticut last week. With Troy Caupain, Shaq Thomas and other players playing at a high level, the Bearcats are slowly, but surely pulling within striking distance of conference leader SMU. Now, Cincinnati has to get past a desperate Memphis squad that challenged the Bearcats in their first contest.
Meet the Opponent
It was only a couple weeks ago that Cincinnati outlasted Memphis en route to a 76-72 win at Fifth Third Arena behind Caupain's career-high 25 points. While the Bearcats used that momentum to reel off three more wins, heading into this one, the Tigers of Memphis went the other direction, dropping three of four following the loss. Memphis lost a one-point game to East Carolina, defeated UCF and was outplayed against SMU and Connecticut.
That doesn't mean the Memphis squad is a bad team though. The usual suspects remain for the Tigers, with Shaq Goodwin and Dedric Lawson pacing the scoring with 14.1 and 14 points per game, respectively. Both are impressive rebounders with Lawson grabbing 8.8 per game and Goodwin grabbing 7.6. Ricky Tarrant Jr. adds 12.8 points per game and is the team's assists leader, averaging 3.5 per game.
In their last meeting, Cincinnati was picked apart from deep with Trashon Burrell hitting 4-of-7 from three and finishing the game with 24 points. Avery Woodson, who's just over a 40% three-point shooter, scored 18 points in the first matchup with 15 points coming he first half.
Speaking of three-point shooting...
During Cincinnati's winning streak, the Bearcats have looked much better in so many aspects of their game, but concern remains over the three-point shot. Memphis, a team not known for lighting up the scoreboard, hit 10-of-22 (45.5%) from three with Burrell and Woodson knocking down nine of those.
The problem for Cincinnati is that their man-zone, which makes them so formidable in the trenches, leaves them relatively weak against the deep shot. For much of the season, this shot has found it's way through the net, especially in Cincinnati losses. However, the Bearcats were able to withstand Burrell's outburst and essentially shut down Woodson in the second half of their first clash. Cincinnati will need to be prepared for the three. Without Memphis' success from deep in the previous meeting, Cincinnati fans would have been breathing a little easier in the closing minutes.
In the Trenches
Need to watch some impressive post players grind in the paint? This is your game.
Lawson and Goodwin were relatively quiet in the first meeting, scoring seven and 13 points, respectively, with Lawson also securing eight rebounds. Look for both of them to have more pronounced roles, especially in the early-going, for a game Memphis absolutely needs to win.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati's bigs combined in their first game against Memphis for 17 points, as Clark accounted for 7 of them, while adding four rebounds, and Octavius Ellis scored 10 points. Between Goodwin, Lawson, Clark and Ellis, this game will feature great guys who will be looking to command the paint. The winner in the trenches will go a long way in deciding the outcome of this game.
Not to mention, since that first meeting between the Tigers and Bearcats, Clark has scored 17, 13 and 16 points. It will interesting to see if this rise in Clark's quality of play continues against a foe like Memphis. Even then, with Ellis' presence, Cincinnati could win in the trenches without Clark needing to light-up the box score.
This should be an exciting, gritty contest.