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Game Guide: Tulsa Golden Hurricane at No. 18 Cincinnati Bearcats

Mick Cronin goes for career win No. 300 as the Bearcats shoot for a home victory.

NCAA Basketball: Cincinnati at Houston Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

How to Watch

  • Tipoff: 12 p.m. ET
  • Television: ESPNU
  • Announcing crew: Alex Faust (play-by-play) and Mark Wise (analyst)
  • Radio: 700 WLW
  • Announcing crew: Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Chuck Machock (analyst)
  • Gamblin’ info: Cincinnati opened as 17-point favorites. The line has since moved to 16.5 points in favor of the Bearcats. The over/under is currently set at 130.5 after opening at 129.
  • Series history: Troy Caupain played hero as he made a pull-up jumper in the final seconds to break Tulsa’s heart at home on Feb. 1. The 57-55 win was the 23rd for the Bearcats in 35 all-time meetings with Tulsa. That includes a 14-2 mark in home contests.

Saturday’s tilt against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane is an important one for the No. 18 Cincinnati Bearcats. Not only is it a chance to keep pace at the top of the American Athletic Conference standings, but it also represents an opportunity for head coach Mick Cronin to reach a major milestone in his career. Here’s everything you need to know for the matchup between the Golden Hurricane and the Bearcats at Fifth Third Arena.

Meet the opponent ... again

You may recall that UC has already squared off with Tulsa before this season. In that first meeting on Feb. 1, the Bearcats escaped with a 57-55 road victory thanks to a last second jumper from Troy Caupain.

That setback started a backward trend for Tulsa, which has lost its last five games, falling to 12-13 overall and 6-7 against the rest of the AAC. With their NCAA Tournament bubble burst, the Golden Hurricane will be out to play spoiler the rest of the way. They nearly pulled off an upset already against the Bearcats, with Jaleel Wheeler scoring 13 points as Tulsa held UC to 35.3 percent shooting in the first meeting.

Such strong defensive play is not the calling card of the Golden Hurricane, who rank 99th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency (100.7), but the fact that they struggled to score was no surprise, as they are outside the top 100 nationally in adjusted offense (103.2, ranked 193rd).

All of Tulsa’s demons were on full display on Valentine’s Day when it lost 71-53 to UCF. Martins Igbanu (15 points) was the only player to score in double figures for the Golden Hurricane in the loss. Igbanu (5.1 PPG) is just a freshman and not the usual volume scorer, but Tulsa doesn’t really have a single standout offensive threat, with Junior Etou (12.2 PPG, 7.0 RPG) the leading scorer on a team with five players averaging at least eight points per game.

Cronin goes for 300

UC’s 68-54 win over USF on Wednesday may have seemed like a run-of-the-mill sort of affair and it largely was. The Bearcats ran away with a road victory against a team they were supposed to beat. However, the win pushed Cronin to 299 for his career as a head coach, spanning his time at Murray State and UC. Cronin, who essentially took over after Bob Huggins, even if there was a one-year Andy Kennedy experiment, won 69 games with the Racers and has gone 230-132 as the leader of the Bearcats. His 230 wins at UC are second only to Huggins, who won 399 games in 16 seasons with UC.

NCAA Basketball: Cincinnati at Southern Methodist Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Getting Caupain back on track

In UC’s win over Tulsa on Feb. 1, Caupain scored a game-high 15 points and drilled the game winner right in a defender’s face. He has struggled since then, failing to score in double figures in the last four games, while producing shooting splits of .235/.150/1.000 in that time. While the free-throw shooting is nice, those other numbers are ghastly and were particularly injured by his 0-for-7 effort from the floor in last weekend’s loss to SMU. For as good as Gary Clark, Kyle Washington, Jacob Evans and Kevin Johnson can be, the Bearcats need their senior point guard to be at his best as they hit the home stretch. Otherwise, all that promise the team exuded during its 15-game winning streak will have been for naught.

Prediction

With Tulsa heading in the wrong direction, it will come out desperate against the Bearcats. The Golden Hurricane showed that they could hang with UC, especially when they played defense well, but they still couldn’t get the job done at home. The loss to SMU has hopefully refocused the Bearcats and playing at home (where they are 15-0 this season) with a chance to get Cronin 300 wins should be enough motivation to get Caupain back to normal and the entire team back to dominating.

Final score: Cincinnati 73, Tulsa 61