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Game Guide: Western Carolina at No. 12 Cincinnati Bearcats

Game one was a success. Now its time for game two.

NCAA Basketball: Savannah State at Cincinnati David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a lopsided victory in their season opener, the No. 12 Cincinnati Bearcats will host the Western Carolina Catamounts in game No. 2 of the season. Well, I guess Northern Kentucky is technically hosting since the game is at BB&T Arena, but that’s just semantics. Since UC will play all their home games there this season, let’s just skip that technicality from now on. Agreed? Good.

How to Watch, Stream, Listen

  • Tipoff: 7 p.m. ET
  • Television/Stream: ESPN3.com
  • Announcing crew: Jim Barbar (play-by-play) and Mark Adams (analyst)
  • Radio: 700 WLW AM
  • Announcing crew: Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Terry Nelson (analyst)
  • Series history: Gary Clark had himself a game last time these teams squared off, pouring in 21 points on 9-of-10 shooting. The Bearcats also won the contest, 97-72, and lead the all-time series 3-0.

Who is Western Carolina?

Western Carolina, otherwise known as the Catamounts, isn’t a program with a long history of basketball success. It has only been to the NCAA Tournament once (1996) and has won 20 games just once in the last 20 years.

Despite failing to make much of an impact in the Southern Conference, the Catamounts are still led by Larry Hunter, who has been the head coach since 2005. A year ago, they hit rock bottom by going 9-23, the worst record of Hunter’s 12 years at the helm.

As far as this season goes, things are not expected to go much better. That is primarily because the Catamounts can’t score very much. They rank 308th in the country in offensive efficiency according to KenPom, and only scored 61.4 points per game last season, ranking 347th out of 351 DI programs.

The offensive shortcomings were on full display against Clemson in their season opener. They hit just 39.3 percent of their shots from the floor and turned the ball over 20 times in an 85-57 setback. Haboubacar Mutombo, the nephew of NBA legend Dikembe Mutombo, had a team-high 10 points in that losing effort. Mutombo was the team’s leading scorer last season as well, averaging 11.7 points per game. Devin Peterson, who had seven points in the opener, is the next best scoring threat. He averaged 10.5 points per game a year ago.

Bearcats Can Play At All Paces

Against Western Carolina, the Bearcats will not be playing at such a high octane speed as they did against Savannah State in their opener. The Tigers, who chuck up shots at an alarming rate, were able to control the tempo of the game to an extent. Unfortunately, they didn’t realize this is a new UC team that doesn’t mind putting their collective foot on the gas. The Bearcats took 86 shots in the game and made 41 of them (.477 FG percentage), including a 13-of-39 showing from beyond the arc.

Jacob Evans was the primary offensive weapon (19 points), but he did a lot more than that, accounting for seven rebounds and five of the team’s 24 assists. Cane Broome was scorer 1B, netting 17 points, including five triples, as he finally got a chance to show off his offensize talents to UC.

Other standouts from the game included Gary Clark (13 points, 11 rebounds), Jarron Cumberland (10 points, seven rebounds, five assists) and Justin Jenifer (15 points, five assists). Jenifer was particularly impressive, showing adept shooting touch from long range, while also creating for himself near the rim.

In all, while the offense did fall into pass-around-the-perimeter mode a little too often, the depth of this team was on full display against Savannah State. Expect a similar effort in a slower game tonight.

Prediction Time!

The Catamounts could put a 28-year-old Dikembe out there with his nephew and the Catamounts still wouldn’t stand a chance. While this game may not feature as many offensive fireworks as the opener did, the Bearcats’ clearly superior offensive ability (that’s not something I’m used to writing) will power them past the Catamounts. Cincinnati 84 Western Carolina 53