Wright St.-Cincinnati Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 21, 2012
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Cincinnati is undefeated and coming off a victory over its archrival, but coach Mick Cronin and his players know there is plenty of room for improvement. The No. 11 Bearcats hope to avoid a letdown Saturday and continue their dominance over visiting Wright State, which is trying for a season-high fourth consecutive victory. Cincinnati (11-0) averages 80.9 points but is paced by a traditionally strong defense that's holding opponents to 57.6 points on 34.8 percent shooting. The Bearcats beat city rival Xavier 60-45 in the annual Crosstown Classic on Wednesday after last season's matchup was marred by a brawl at the end of the game. Cincinnati avenged that 76-53 defeat by holding the banged-up Musketeers to 37.7 percent shooting, including 2 of 13 from 3-point range, and forcing 15 turnovers. Sean Kilpatrick had 25 points, seven rebounds and four steals and Cashmere Wright added 15 points, six boards and four assists. However, the Bearcats shot 9 of 36 (25.0 percent) in the first half and finished at a season-low 32.8 percent. Kilpatrick averages a team-leading 19.8 points on 46.7 percent shooting for a squad that banks on much of its offense coming off its defensive pressure. The Bearcats force 17.4 turnovers per game. "Emotionally, we just have to stick together, defensive wise," Kilpatrick said. "Because we know that every shot isn't going to fall for us and we're still a work in progress when it comes to the offense. We are a defensive team. Everyone on our team is a good scorer, but there's not a lot of people that can stay with us defensive wise." Cronin was happy his team could overcome its cold shooting and stymie Xavier while starting guards Dee Davis and Semaj Christon dealt with leg cramps in the second half. He also knows his team must play better overall going forward with a tough matchup against Wright State (8-3) and No. 16 New Mexico on Thursday before opening Big East play at Pittsburgh on New Year's Eve. "My postgame talk was about what we need to do to improve," said Cronin, whose 2010-11 team started 15-0. "Wright State has been on a roll. (Coach) Billy (Donlon) has done a great job. You can't think that this is great and we won this game. I'm not concerned about that with this team." Cincinnati has won all but one meeting by at least 18 points and not scored fewer than 77 while going 8-0 against Wright State. The Raiders, though, are among the nation's top defensive teams, allowing 55.8 points per game and holding opponents to 40.0 percent shooting. Kilpatrick has totaled 46 points on 15-of-26 shooting, including 11 of 17 from beyond the arc, in two games against the Raiders. He scored 20 and led five Bearcats in double figures during last season's 78-58 win at Wright State. Miles Dixon, second on Wright State with 10.8 points per game, scored 21 in a 67-59 win over Miami, Ohio on Wednesday. The Raiders have lost 10 in a row against Top 25 teams since a 43-42 win over No. 13 Butler on Dec. 8, 2007.
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