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Game Preview: Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Milwaukee Panthers

While our eyes may be fixed on Saturday, the Bearcats are still going to have to deal with the Milwaukee Panthers in a non-conference basketball clash at Fifth Third Arena on Friday night.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina Central at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

It’s still very early in the college basketball season, so Mick Cronin and his Cincinnati Bearcats aren’t always the biggest show in town. That is certainly the case this weekend as the men’s basketball Bearcats will take a secondary role to the football Bearcats, who are playing the undefeated UCF Knights in a primetime Saturday night affair.

Despite the extra attention that is being directed at the football field, the Bearcats still have some hooping to do, as they will host the Milwaukee Panthers in a non-conference tilt on Friday night at Fifth Third Arena.

Who are the Milwaukee Panthers?

The second season of the Pat Baldwin experience has not started all that well for Milwaukee, which has dropped its first three games of the year. To the Panthers’ credit, their last two losses were by pretty small margins, as they fell by six points combined against North Dakota and Florida International. Close losses are still not wins, and the Panthers haven’t exactly proven they can rally back the last few seasons. In Baldwin’s first year as head coach, the Panthers went 16-17 overall and 8-10 in the Horizon League. It was their third losing season in the last four years.

This year’s roster is markedly different than it was last spring. Milwaukee said goodbye to its top four scorers and that has opened up a lot of opportunity for junior guard Darius Roy. The 6’2 transfer from Connors State College is averaging 17.3 points, 5.7 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game. Those large counting numbers lose their luster when you look at Roy’s shooting splits (.396/.214/.846), especially when you realize he’s taking nearly five threes per game.

Another transfer student, DeAndre Abram, is helping to pace the Panthers. Formerly of George Mason, Abram is averaging a triple-double on the season (10.7 xPPG, 11.7 RPG) and just came off an 11-point, 15-rebound effort against FIU during which he blocked three shots. Roy added 19 points and Wil Sessoms went 7-for-9 from the field to finish with 17 of his own off the bench. Wouldn't you know it? The 6’8” Sessoms is also a transfer player.

Adjusting to the New Season

Mick Cronin must not have liked what he saw from the Bearcats in their season-opening loss. In the second game of the season, he made a major change to the starting lineup, replacing Cane Broome with sophomore wing Keith Williams. The move looks like a stroke of genius now, as Williams scored a team-high 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting. The Bearcats shot better as a whole, netting 58.5 percent and capturing a 22-point victory over NC Central.

Trevon Scott was another standout performer in the win, scoring 12 points on a perfect 6-of-6 shooting. Scott is one of two players on the team to average in double figures through the first two games. Jarron Cumberland, unsurprisingly, is the other. However, Scott’s presence in the frontcourt has not yielded as much production on the boards. It’s only two games, but Scott is expected to be bringing in more than 10.1 rebounds per 100 possessions.

While Williams and Scott have had solid starts, Broome has not. He made just 1-of-10 shot attempts as a starter against Ohio State and then was held scoreless in 14 minutes after being demoted to the bench against NC Central. Freshman point guard Logan Johnson logged more minutes (18). Broome was a key contributor last season, but such a weak showing to start could have him plunging down the depth chart.

Future Plans

It won’t have any affect on this game or any others this season, but the Bearcats signed Samari Curtis to a national letter of intent this week. The four-star recruit is an exceptional scorer, having averaged more than 30 points per game as a junior at Xenia High School in Xenia, Ohio last year. He’ll be a welcome addition in the future.

Prediction Time!

Unless the Cumberland and company are somehow distracted by the prospect of tomorrow’s battle with the Knights, the Bearcats should be up to the challenge of stopping a winless Milwaukee team. Cincinnati 74 Milwaukee 59