While blowouts are nice, No. 13 Cincinnati is preparing as if it will get a competitive game from Buffalo when the teams meet Monday in the opening round of the Cayman Islands Classic. The Bearcats have won their first three games by an average of 41.3 points, but coach Mick Cronin knows that close games are coming and the first could be against the Bulls.
“You just never know what you are going to get when it comes to fruition and its game night,” Cronin said of scheduling the likes of Savannah State, Western Carolina and Coppin State. “There’s going to come a time where we’re going to have to execute in a close game.” One benefit of playing three lesser opponents in the season’s first week is that Cronin was able to get everyone acclimated to his system of play, which should pay dividends in this tournament and when the Bearcats meet stronger teams such as No. 17 Xavier, No. 7 Florida and No. 18 UCLA in the coming weeks. Cane Broome, a transfer from Sacred Heart, has come in and averaged 20.3 minutes and 12 points and freshmen Keith Williams, Trevor Moore, Mamoudou Diarra and Eliel Nsoseme have all gotten a chance to get their feet wet for Cronin. Unlike the Bearcats, the Bulls have had to eke out a pair of wins behind the play of Nick Perkins, CJ Massinburg and Davonta Jordan.
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ABOUT BUFFALO (2-0): It has only been two games, but it appears that Perkins is enjoying being in the starting lineup after winning the Mid-American Conference Sixth Man of the Year award last season. The 6-8 junior forward’s shooting has improved dramatically in all three areas over last season, resulting in him averaging 21 points. “Nick has been unbelievable in his mentality and his work ethic and his preparation,” coach Nate Oats, who led the Bulls to the NCAA Tournament in his first season before slipping to 17-15 last season, told the media.
ABOUT CINCINNATI (3-0): Not the most flashy or outspoken player, Gary Clark has used a consistent approach to become one of the top scorers and rebounders in Bearcats history. The 6-8 senior forward from North Carolina, who has never averaged better than 11 points in his career, recently went over 1,000 career points and is poised to do the same in rebounds. “One of the greatest kids that you will every coach,” Cronin told the media of Clark, who has shot 52.5 percent for his career. “ Guys like Gary Clark, you can’t help but root for them.”
1. Only four players in Cincinnati history have finished their careers with 1,000 career rebounds and two of them - Oscar Robertson and Jack Twyman - are Hall of Famers.
2. The Bulls have posted a 6-22 mark against teams from the American Athletic Conference, including 0-1 against the Bearcats.
3. At their current pace, Perkins and Massinburg will join 19 others on the list of 1,000-point scorers for the Bulls.
PREDICTION: Cincinnati 82, Buffalo 75