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January 3, 2014

Memphis vs. Cincinnati Preview

The No. 17/18 Memphis Tigers (10-2, 1-0) started off on the right foot in the American Athletic Conference with a road win against the South Florida Bulls (9-5, 0-1) on Tuesday night in Tampa, Florida by the final score of 88-73. Now the Tigers are on a three-game winning streak. With the Bulls out of the way, the Tigers will renew a heated rivalry from their Conference USA days and take on the Cincinnati Bearcats (12-2, 1-0).

Memphis won six of the eight regular season Conference USA championships and all but one of the league's tournament titles following the departure of Cincinnati and Louisville in 2005.

Cincinnati is coming into this game riding on a five-game winning streak. Their last loss was on Dec. 14 on the road to Xavier by the final score of 64-47. In their loss to Xavier, the Bearcats shot 33.3 percent (14-of-42) from the field and 35.7 percent (5-of-14) from long range. Senior guard Sean Kilpatrick had a decent game finishing with 17 points on 4-of-9 shooting (44.4 percent) from the field. Kilpatrick is the Bearcats' leading scorer this season with 18.6 points a game.

In the Bearcats last game, senior forward Justin Jackson led the team in scoring with 17 points to help the Bearcats win their first conference game of the season against Southern Methodist by the final score of 65-57. Kilpatrick shot 25 percent (3-of-12) from the field, but managed to finish the game with 13 points. Majority of his points came from the free throw line, where he shot a perfect 100 percent (6-of-6).

Cincinnati is not a team who scores a lot of points. As a team, they average 72.5 points a game. This team doesn't have a dominant inside presence either so, they will have to rely on their backcourt tag team of Kilpatrick and Jackson to get the job done on the scoring end. Their best big man is senior forward Titus Rubles. He's averaging 7.5 points, 1.6 assists and 5.5 rebounds a game this season. Still, this will not be enough to beat Memphis, who has three solid big men in the paint.

For the Tigers, senior forward Austin Nichols is in a scoring slump and hasn't scored in double figures since the month of November when he averaged 17 points in a three-game stretch. No need to worry because senior graduate transfer David Pellom has stepped up to the plate. Pellom has scored in double figures for the third time in the last four games including a 10-point and seven rebound performance against the Bulls on Tuesday night. Sophomore forward Shaq Goodwin scored only five points and grabbed eight rebounds in the win over the Bulls, but he's still averaging 12.8 points and 6.7 rebounds for the season.

The senior guards for Memphis are starting to click on all cylinders since conference play has kicked into high gear. In their win over the Bulls, three of the four senior guards scored in double figures. Geron Johnson led the way with 19 points. Michael Dixon Jr. and Joe Jackson had 18 points apiece.

Memphis has all of the tools to defeat the Bearcats in front of the Tiger Nation fanatics, but they will have to continue to shoot the basketball at a good rate. As a team, they shot 52.4 percent (33-of-63) from the field and 42.1 percent (8-of-19) from long range against South Florida. The shots will have to fall in order for Memphis to get their second straight win in conference play. If the three ball doesn't fall, as Pastner has mentioned before, then Memphis might be in for a long afternoon in front of a Memphis crowd that doesn't take losing easily, especially against a rival opponent like Cincinnati, who looks to win their sixth straight game.

This game is slated for Saturday at 11 a.m. CST at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, TN. This game will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN3.

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