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Game Preview: Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions at No. 20 Cincinnati Bearcats

Find out what happens when an unstoppable force meets a very movable object.

NCAA Basketball: Cincinnati at UCLA Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bearcats have won at least 10 games every season since 1946 when they went 8-13 in their final year under Ray Farnham. Of course, its pretty difficult to not get to at least double digits in this day and age since teams play roughly 30 games a year even without postseason invites. Tonight, UC has a chance to reach the 10-win plateau once again when it hosts the Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions at BB&T Arena.

Who are the Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions?

Winning 10 games may be commonplace for UC, but it is not for the Golden Lions, who have lost each of their first 12 games and failed to get to double digits in victories in the two previous seasons. In fact, in the last 20 seasons, they have been held below that mark nine times.

This year’s team is a special kind of terrible, as the Golden Lions are ranked 348th in the country by KenPom’s metrics. That puts them ahead of only Alabama A&M (0-11), Mississippi Valley State (0-11) and Delaware State (2-10), who have all of two wins between them. The closest the Golden Lions have come to victory was against North Dakota on Nov. 13 and Pacific on Nov. 24 when they “only” lost by nine points.

While their last game against Weber State did not feature such a combative performance, the Golden Lions did score a season-high 74 points, eclipsing the 70-point mark for just the third time this year and the first time since Nov. 13. That’s what can be expected from one of the worst offensive squads in the country. Scoring just 58.7 points per game, the Golden Lions rely almost exclusively on the offensive talents of Martaveous McKnight (17.3 PPG), who attempts 6.1 3s per game and is shooting .433/.356/.780 overall. Charles Jackson, who like the 6’6” McKnight is a lengthy wing player at 6’5”, also takes six triples per game and is second on the team in scoring (9.7), but his shooting splits are pretty poor (.368/.278/.435).

McKnight scored 27 points in the loss to Weber State, while Jackson was held to two points on 1-of-5 shooting across a team-high 39 minutes. Trent Steen helped a bit, netting 18 points, and has now scored in double figures in three of the last five games. Steen is one of the “better” rebounders for the Golden Lions, but that doesn’t mean much since they are 335th in the country in rebounds.

Two Big Wins

If you’re curious as to what that sound is its the chiming of momentum. The Bearcats are coming off back-to-back wins against Mississippi State and UCLA. Those victories may not have the same appeal that wins over Xavier or Florida would have had, but they were still quality December victories. MSU is No. 65 in KenPom’s rankings and UCLA is No. 54 and coming off a 31-win season (with Lonzo Ball).

The triumph against the Bruins was clearly the most impressive one, since it came on the road and was still so dominant. Despite facing a hostile crowd, the Bearcats shot 46.6 percent from the floor and only turned the ball over nine times, while forcing 18 miscues from their hosts.

But the win over the Bulldogs was a strong one as well, especially on defense, as the Bearcats allowed only 50 points. They have now let up less than 60 points in six games, while ranking fifth in the country in adjusted defense.

Prediction Time!

When was the last time there was a shutout in college basketball? The Bearcats just held UCLA to 63 points and are one of the best defensive units around. I think they’ll be able to handle the Golden Lions easily.

Cincinnati 80 Arkansas-Pine Bluff 47