The Cincinnati Bearcats fought to keep it’s spot at the top of the American Athletic Conference this week, defeating the No. 2 and No. 3 ranked teams in the league, SMU and Houston. Both games came down to the final minutes, and even the final seconds in SMU’s case, but the 'Cats were able to fend them off and keep their undefeated conference record alive. UC remains as the only undefeated team left in the AAC and although they have had some close calls, they show no signs of giving up the top spot of the conference.
Taking Care of Houston and SMU
The Bearcats traveled to Houston last Saturday knowing that they would get a hard fought game, and that's exactly what happened. Although UC controlled the game from the late first half to the end of the game, Houston kept within striking distance at all times. The Bearcats got a big performance from Kyle Washington with 19 points and 9 rebounds, which was his first strong game in a couple of weeks. UC would win the game 67-58.
The Bearcats next stop would be at their very own Fifth Third Arena, facing off the second best team in the conference, SMU. The Bearcats started out very hot from the three-point line and stayed pretty consistent, shooting 46.2 percent from behind the arc. But the inside game was weak all night, which is why SMU was a threat until the very last second. UC was outrebounded by 10 and gave up 13 offensive rebounds alone, which kept SMU from going away. The 'Cats did end up getting the win, but it was ugly. Outside of the three-point line, UC wasn’t doing much else right.
Winning the Close Ones
The Bearcats have been known as the "Cardiac Cats" before, and it looks like they have made their return. C has had dangerously close games with Iowa State, Marshall, Temple, SMU and Houston. lthough these games are tough to sit through, UC has gotten the job done every time. Whether its a Troy Caupain put back or Jacob Evans capping the game with free throws, the Cats' have found a way to get it done. I know they are only four games into conference play, but being on the winning end of some close games is good territory for the "Cardiac Cats" to be in.
Since the AP and Coaches poll don’t come out until Monday, the impact of beating SMU has not been felt for the Bearcats just yet, as they remain No. 22 in both polls. On the bright side, UC has now been ranked for seven weeks, eclipsing last year’s total of six.
Now while the national polls don’t update on a daily basis, the KenPom ratings do. Cincinnati is ranked No. 19 after the SMU win and that includes the No. 3 rated defense in the nation.
Highlight of the Week
This was the last field goal of the SMU game for UC and without it, we probably aren’t celebrating a perfect conference record for the Bearcats.
Huge shot by @Clutchman_34! Wow. #Bearcats pic.twitter.com/lJnLIMvTA2— J. Scott Sewell (@jscottsewell) January 13, 2017
UC will have three games on the schedule for next week. The first at 9-9 East Carolina, the second at home against 10-8 Temple and the third at 4-12 Tulane. If you are looking at the opponents win-loss record, it looks like an easy week, but you can never take anything lightly in conference play.