The Cincinnati Bearcats had a disastrous last month of the season. It actually started in January, when they lost back-to-back games to UCF and Tulane. If you count those contests, UC lost eight of its last 10 games of the year, going from a team with slight NCAA Tournament aspirations to a squad sporting a 16-13 overall record and the No. 7 seed in the American Athletic Conference Tournament, which starts today.
In the first round, the Bearcats will take on the 10th-seeded Houston Cougars. Here’s everything you need to know.
Matchup: No. 7 Cincinnati Bearcats (16-13) vs. No. 10 Houston Cougars (11-18)
Location: Mohegan Sun Arena. Uncasville, Connecticut
Tipoff: 6 p.m.
Television: The game can be streamed on WatchESPN and the ESPN app. It can also be seen on BearcatsTV.
Announcers: For ESPN, Bob Picozzi (play-by-play) and Katie Smith (color analyst). Matt Noonan will call the game for BearcatsTV.
Series History: Cincinnati leads the all-time series 16-5, with wins in six-straight meetings, including this year’s season sweep.
Meet the Opponent
Even though Houston managed to split its last four games of the regular season, it had a bad year overall, finishing with just an 11-18 mark, including a 4-12 record against the rest of the AAC. There is hope for the future, however, as Jasmyne Harris and Angela Harris were each named to the All-AAC freshman team. Jasmyne Harris is the only player on the team averaging in double figures (11.4 PPG) while shooting just under 40 percent from the floor. She also adds quite a bit on the boards (5.5 PG) and has accomplished all this despite only starting in 10 games. Angela Harris (9.6 PPG) is an able scorer as well, although she has had her issues from three-point range (.282)
As a team, Houston is scoring 60.8 points per game while allowing 68.2. The Cougars shoot 37.4 percent from the field, while suffering from a -2.2 rebounding margin on average. They also turn the ball over nearly 20 times per game.
The Season Series
Jan. 7 - Cincinnati 85, Houston 64
Ana Owens poured in 22 points and handed out 12 assists to go with six rebounds in a dominating effort from UC at home. Shanice Johnson had a double-double of her own (21 points, 12 rebounds) and Bianca Quisenberry notched 22 points. When those three, who are undoubtedly the best players on the roster, are able to get things working, UC can be a really difficult team to handle.
Kierra Graves had 20 points in the losing effort, during which UH was outscored 21-6 from three-point range, although it did win the battle for points in the paint (44-38).
Feb. 11 - Cincinnati 71, Houston 62
The Cougars didn’t lose by as large a margin but they dug themselves into an early hole and never got out of it. UC shot 48.5 percent from the floor, including a 6-of-11 showing from three-point range, in the first half and led by as many as 19 points in the game overall. There was a bit more sharing of the offensive load in the win, with five players scoring in double figures for the Bearcats.
A 19-10 scoring edge in points off of turnovers helped UH chip away at its deficit some, but it obviously wasn’t enough. Angela Harris netted 16 points and Jasmyne Harris added 13.
UC’s Big Three
As mentioned before, UC goes as Owens, Johnson and Quisenberry go. Owens has been struggling a bit down the stretch, which has hurt the Bearcats. She has made only 30.6 percent of her shots from the field this season, but is still second on the team in scoring (11.8 PPG) and a more than capable distributor. Johnson is the player of the year candidate on the roster, averaging nearly a double-double (15.2 PPG, 9.6 APG) while leading the team in blocks (43) and steals (81). Quisenberry is the team’s best three-point shooter (.341) and is averaging 10.4 points per game. No other player on the roster is scoring more than 6.5 points a game.
UH couldn’t beat UC on the road or at home. A neutral site game doesn’t exactly make me think there will be a big change in the result. As long as Johnson, Owens and Quisenberry are playing in concert, the Cougars’ youth movement will have to wait their turn.
The winner of this contest will advance to the quarterfinals to take on the second-seeded Temple Owls at 6 p.m. on Saturday.