No. 19 Cincinnati goes to Temple with five-game win streak
Cincinnati is on a five-game winning streak filled with double-digit wins but may encounter a difficult time getting another comfortable victory.
The 19th-ranked Bearcats put their winning streak on the line Thursday when they visit Temple for a meeting in the raucous Liacouras Center in Philadelphia.
Cincinnati (12-2, 1-0 American Athletic Conference) has won its last five games by an average of 24 points. After closing out non-conference play with an 81-62 win over Cleveland State on Dec. 21, the Bearcats coasted to an 82-48 win over Memphis on Sunday.
Cincinnati is returning to the site of one of its more grittier wins from last season. On Dec. 28. 2016, the Bearcats posted a 56-50 win despite shooting 32.8 percent from the field.
"They shoot the three extremely well and they always play well against us, even though last year we won both games," Bearcats coach Mick Cronin said. "And historically we haven't shot the ball well there for whatever reason."
Cronin may be thinking of the Jan. 18 meeting in Cincinnati when the Bearcats posted an 81-74 victory despite allowing Temple to shoot 46.2 percent from 3-point range.
One player who experienced a difficult time against Temple last season is forward Gary Clark. He was the third-leading scorer for the Bearcats last season and is the second-leading scorer this year at 12.5 points, but in last year's trip to Philadelphia he scored 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting and then was held to seven points in 35 minutes in the second meeting.
Before eking out wins in last year's trip to Temple, Cincinnati was dealt a 67-65 loss in 2015-16 and a 75-59 defeat the previous season.
"I think I've won up there one time," Clark told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Playing in their arena, something about playing there, they play well."
Another player who struggled in last season's visit to Temple was guard Jacob Evans III, who finished with 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting.
Evans leads the Bearcats with 13.5 points per game and finished with 12 points Sunday as Cincinnati's starting front line of Evans, Jarron Cumberland and Clark combined for 40 points on 16 of 26 from the field.
Temple (7-6, 0-2) has lost three straight and four of its last five games since getting an 81-78 win over St. Joseph's on Dec. 9. Temple's first three losses in this slid were by double digits, but its comeback fell just short during Saturday's 76-73 loss at Houston.
Temple trailed by 11 with 2:24 remaining and was within one on a 3-pointer by Shizz Alston Jr. with nine seconds remaining. Alston then missed a potential tying 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Alston led the Owls with 18 points and leading scorer Quinton Rose added 14. Since getting 27 against Villanova, Rose is averaging 12.2 points and shooting 36.7 percent from the field (18 of 49).
Despite the recent struggles, Temple owns an RPI of 33 and a strong strength of schedule. The Owls beat No. 25 Clemson earlier this season and also notched a win over Wisconsin.
The Owls are also looking to avoid their second straight 0-3 start in league play.
"We need to be as solid as we can be in the scoring area," Temple coach Fran Dunphy told the school's website. "Defensively, we have to be communicative and we got to be checking out and not give up easy baskets and second-chance opportunities.
"On offense, the thing that has hurt us the most has been shot selection in that poor timing of it, bad floor balance, and if we haven't finished at the rim, people have run it out on us and gotten some easy baskets. So those are critical areas we need to improve on."
Dunphy's assessments are precise.
During the three-game skid, the Owls are shooting 43.1 percent, allowing 49.7 percent shooting. Temple's defense also has allowed 43 second-chance points and 100 points in the paint.
The Bearcats own a 19-9 advantage in the series but a slim 5-4 edge in Philadelphia.
Updated January 4, 2018