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Game Preview: Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions

In their first game back since winning the Emerald Coast Classic, the Bearcats will try to tame the Golden Lions.

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

In a rematch of a December clash from last season, the Cincinnati Bearcats will serve as hosts for the Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions at Fifth Third Arena on Tuesday night.

The Bearcats have fond memories of their last run-in with the Golden Lions, whom they routed 77-49 in a Dec. 19 matchup last year when they temporarily called BB&T Arena home. That particular victory extended a three-game winning streak for UC, which is riding another run of wins into this contest. During a journey to Niceville, Florida for the Emerald Coast Classic, the Bearcats sprinted by the competition, collecting the championship title and earning their fourth and fifth wins in a row. Now 5-1 overall, this team has really started to find its identity and it would love to reintroduce itself to the Golden Lions.

Who are the Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions?

Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s loss to the Bearcats last December was one of many. Despite a 12-6 finish in Southwestern Athletic Conference play, the Golden Lions closed the campaign at 14-21 overall, marking their fifth-straight losing season. On the positive side, they did reach double digit victories for the first time in three years, so I suppose their final record was a relative success.

Whether its due to belief in his vision for the program, the minor success of last season or a combination of the two, George Ivory was retained as head coach for this season. Ivory is now in his 11th year with the Golden Lions, whom he has led to 121-207 overall record and one NCAA Tournament appearance.

In year 11 of the Ivory era, the Golden Lions are 2-4. They are actually carrying their own winning streak into Tuesday’s contest. A triple-overtime marathon victory over California Baptist University this past Friday was followed by a 75-66 triumph over Arkansas-Little Rock the next day.

During both wins, it was abundantly clear who the Golden Lions’ best player is. That would be junior guard Martaveous McKnight, who poured in 40 points against CBU and threw in 20 against the Trojans. A determined slasher, McKnight is very good at getting to the free-throw lone (8.8 attempts per game) and can also splash it from long range (35.7 three-point shooting percentage). Not only is the 6’4” McKnight an excellent scorer (27.9 PPG), but the top playmaker on this roster (3.5 APG, 27.5 assist percentage).

If you’re looking for the secondary players to watch, sharpshooting guard Charles Jackson (11.3 PPG) has scored more than 20 points in each of the last two games while Shaun Doss (10.7 PPG) is known to pile up some buckets from time to time.

A Very Happy Thanksgiving Weekend

For the second-straight season, the Bearcats celebrated Thanksgiving with an early season tournament title. The road to the championship in this year’s Emerald Coast Classic was paved by a level of consistency on the scoreboard that is rarely seen. The Bearcats won in Friday’s semi final bout by a score of 71-55 against George Mason. They followed that up with a victory over Ole Miss the next day ... by a score of 71-57.

While the final scores were nearly identical, the Bearcats used different recipes to get the desired outcome.

During their semifinal win, four different players scored in double figures, led by 21 off the bench from Cane Broome and an efficient 14 points (7-of-9 shooting) and eight rebounds from Trevon Scott. A 33-20 advantage on the glass and solid defense did the rest.

In the finals, Jarron Cumberland used constant attacks of the rim to get himself 13 points at the free-throw line and 25 points overall. Cumberland carried the bulk of the scoring burden during a cold night for the offense (40 percent shooting). However, the rest of the Bearcats suffocated the Patriots’ offensive efforts, holding them to 37.3 percent shooting, including a 3-for-21 showing from beyond the arc.

Depth was a key hallmark of the UC team that won the Cayman Islands Classic last November. It appears to be one for this year’s team as well, with the Bearcats showing they can win in multiple ways.

Prediction Time!

Even with a scorer like McKnight, the Golden Lions are going to struggle to get their offense going against a UC team ranked 22nd in the country in adjusted defense. The Bearcats can counter anything the Golde Lions throw at them and ensure their winning streak stays alive. Cincinnati 82 Arkansas-Pine Bluff 62