It’s hard to find fault in a 28-point victory - but No. 22 Cincinnati identified flaws it needs to work on moving forward. The Bearcats seek their fourth consecutive victory Thursday night as they end the non-conference portion of their schedule against visiting Cleveland State.
Cincinnati led by as many as 34 points in the second half of Tuesday night’s 77-49 triumph over Arkansas-Pine Bluff. But 15 turnovers and a less-than-anticipated 14 offensive rebounds left both players and coaches wanting. “We played really well against UCLA,” associate coach Larry Davis said of the Bearcats’ previous game, a 77-63 triumph over the Bruins. “We can’t now go out and because our opponent is somebody with less talent, we can’t turn the ball over, we can’t not rebound the ball. That’s the constant battle.” With American Athletic Conference play kicking off Dec. 31 against Memphis, Cincinnati will look to work on a few areas against Cleveland State, which is still looking for its first road win of the season after dropping a 79-77 decision to Niagara last time out.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN3
ABOUT CLEVELAND STATE (3-7): The Vikings rank inside the top 50 against FBS teams when it comes to 2-point shooting - but they can’t seem to score from anywhere else, ranking 301st in Division I in 3-point shooting (30.1 percent) and 347th out of 351 teams in free-throw success rate (59.2 percent). Senior guard Kenny Carpenter leads the team in scoring at 14.6 points per game and has been one of the steadier players in the Horizon League, scoring between 13 and 17 points in each of his last five games. Tyree Appleby contributes 10.9 points and is the team leader in assists (3.2) and steals (1.8).
ABOUT CINCINNATI (10-2): While the Bearcats continue to work out the kinks on offense, you can’t really quibble with what they’ve done on the defensive side of the floor, ranking ninth in the nation in scoring defense (59.8 ppg) and fifth in scoring margin (plus-21.0). Jacob Evans paces the offense at 14.2 points per game, while Cane Broome tied a season high with 17 points in the win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff to become the fifth Cincinnati player to average in double figures. Free-throw shooting is an area of concern for the Bearcats, who connect on 68.8 percent of their attempts - good for 233rd in the country.
1. Evans has scored in double figures in eight consecutive games.
2. The Bearcats allow just 26.8 first-half points per game, eighth-fewest in the nation.
3. Cleveland State averages 7.9 offensive rebounds per contest, tied for 324th in the country.
PREDICTION: Cincinnati 82, Cleveland State 55