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2019-20 Cincinnati Bearcats Women’s Basketball Preview

Coming off their best season since 2002, Bearcats women enter 2019-20 with high expectations.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 10 American Athletic Conference Women’s Championship - Cincinnati v UCF Photo by Williams Paul/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

2018-19 recap

Cincinnati Bearcats women’s basketball team went 24-11 in 2018-19 and made the Women’s NIT. It was their second straight appearance in the NIT.

Among the highlights of their season:

  • 24 wins i(most since 2002)
  • 12 conference wins (most since 1999)
  • Consecutive postseason wins for the first time in program history (WNIT Elite 8)
  • First postseason win since 2002

2019-20 Expectations

At 2019 Media Day, the Bearcats were picked in a tie to finish third in the conference, their highest pre-season projected since joining the AAC.

Cincinnati hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2003 and that is definitely the goal in 2020, to get back there.

Head coach - Michelle Clark-Heard

Michelle Clark-Heard is entering her second year as the Bearcats head coach. She replaced Jamelle Elliot after 9, mostly unsuccessful, seasons. Clark-Heard knows about NCAA Tournament experience, which aligns with Cincinnati’s goals.

During her previous time at Western Kentucky, along with her top assistant coach Melissa Kolbe, they won two C-USA Tournament Championships, and made back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 2017 and 2018.

We recently put the spotlight on coach Clark-Heard

Key Returning Players

Bearcats return five starters from last year’s team and four key players.

Antoinette Miller and IImar’I Thomas were both named to the AAC Pre-Season Second Team during Media Day. Angel Rizor and Sam Rodgers both started every game they played, each averaging over 30 minutes per game.

Antoinette Miller - In 2018-19, Miller started all 35 games, playing 34 minutes per game and averaging 13.6 ppg. Miller lead the team with 5.2 assists per game and 66 steals.

Check out more on Miller on some of her notable performances from 2018-19

Ilmari’l Thomas - Played all 35 games, starting 24, and was second in scoring behind Miller, with 12.9 ppg. Thomas also lead the team with 43 blocks and 7.2 rpg.

Sam Rodgers - Started 32 games and lead the team, shooting 36% from three and averaged 9.2 ppg

Angel Rizor - Started all 35 games and averaged 9.2 ppg, while shooting 46% from the floor.

The 5th player returning, who averaged over 20 minutes per game is Florence Sifa, who was the AAC Newcomer of the Year in 2018-19. After transferring from Jacksonville College, she started 12 games (played 33). Sifa averaged 7.2 ppg and 3.1 rpg.

The Departed

The Bearcats will miss a pair of seniors - Nikira Goings played 34 games (started 14) and was 5th on the team averaging 8.7 ppg. Chelsea Warren played all 35 games (starting 20).

Andeija Puckett played all 35 games off the bench (except one) and served as valuable, reliable depth. She decided to transfer after the season to Ole Miss.

Key Newcomers

Chellia Watson received many honors as a high school star in Georgia and was the #231 ranked player nationally. She could have an immediate impact for the Bearcats.

Jada Scott and Jadyn Scott are the biggest names, in terms of fan recognition, among the Bearcats’ newcomers. That’s because their older brother is kind of a big deal around Fifth Third Arena - Trevon Scott. Jada is ranked as the #39 wing in the country and Jadyn was ranked the #33 wing nationally #248 overall.

Addaya Moore sat out last season after transferring from Illinois. She played just 140 minutes across 19 games (7.4 mpg) in 2017-18 ransferred from Illinois and sat out last year

Arame Niang played 33 games for Western Kentucky last season, where she averaged 5.7 ppg and 3.6 rpg. She was initially recruited by Clark-Heard, so she wanted to transfer to Cincinnati to reunite with her coach.

What to Know About the Schedule

Bearcats will play 5 teams that played in the postseason in 2018-19, including 2 that played in the NCAA Tournament (UConn and UCF), and 7 teams that won 20 or more games.

One of those teams with 20 wins is Utah, who the Bearcats up the season with at Fifth Third Arena in the first ever meeting between the schools. Utes went 20-10 last season (9-9 in PAC-12) and were left out of postseason play. They were just 5-6 on the road.

Ohio State finished 14-15 last season, a disappointing year. But they did beat Cincinnati 69-56 on December 2nd. The women have lost 6 of 7 all-time against Ohio State, with the lone win coming in 2013-14. Buckeyes come to Fifth Third Arena on November 13.

Puerto Rico Classic takes place during Thanksgiving. After playing the first 5 games at home, this should serve as a nice test for the Bearcats and they will face Iowa and Bucknell.

Cincinnati snapped a 4 game losing streak vs Xavier, by winning 79-61 last season. They travel to Cintas Center on December 14th.

One week later, Bearcats host Pitt (12/21). Pitt won last year’s meeting 65-48.

Cincinnati opens conference play on 1/5 playing at USF, a team who also made the WNIT last year. Cincinnati won both games against USF, who have played in the postseason 8 straight years, including 5 NCAA Tournament appearances).

Their first home AAC game will be 1/12 against UCF. Knights made the NCAA Tournament last season and were picked tied with the Bearcats to finish third this season. They beat the Bearcats in the semifinals of the AAC Tournament in March.

UConn will (not sadly) be leaving the AAC after the 2019-20 season. Cincinnati plays on the road on 1/30 and at home on 2/26. UConn is 20-0 all-time vs Cincinnati. Give the Bearcats credit. Many of the scores over the year have not been pretty and many not within 40 points. But last year, at home, Cincinnati lost a hard fought game 65-55. No shame in that.