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Bulls play host to 19th-ranked Bearcats

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Updated: 1/18 8:24 am

Tampa, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - The 19th-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats will try to keep rolling along, as they invade the Sun Dome for an American Athletic Conference duel with the South Florida Bulls.

It has been more than a month since the Bearcats last felt the sting of defeat, as they have won nine straight to improve to 16-2 overall and thrust themselves into the national rankings. Cincinnati has posted a perfect 5-0 record in conference, and the team will host UCF next.

Although South Florida is a solid 10-7 overall, it has not been piling up the wins in league play, with losses in three of its first four tries. The most recent result was a 71-54 loss at SMU on Wednesday. Following this bout, the Bulls will tangle with 18th-ranked Louisville.

Both of these teams are leftovers from the former Big East. However, a shared conference history has not led to much parity, as Cincinnati has won 24 of the 32 previous meetings.

Cincinnati matched wits with Temple in its latest outing, and willed its way to a 69-58 victory. The Bearcats forced 15 turnovers, and also held a 12-4 scoring advantage out on the fast break. Sean Kilpatrick dropped in 23 points, and both Justin Jackson (15 points, 10 rebounds) and Titus Rubles (13 points, 12 rebounds) logged double-doubles.

Mick Cronin's teams have always been known for their effort at the defensive end, and this year's version may be one of his best yet. The Bearcats rank fifth in the nation in scoring defense (56.3 ppg), while holding foes to 38.3 percent shooting. Kilpatrick (18.6 ppg) is doing a lot of the heavy lifting on offense. In fact, the 6-foot-4 guard leads the AAC in scoring. Justin Jackson (11.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 3.4 bpg) is another standout performer on the roster, as he can score, but makes more of an impact in other areas, ranking in the top five in the league in both rebounds and blocks.

USF got abused on the interior in its recent loss to SMU, suffering a deficit of 42-24 in points in the paint, and a 37-31 disadvantage on the boards. The Mustangs shot just 32.1 percent from the floor, with Zach LeDay netting a team-high 12 points.

The Bulls can also turn up the defensive pressure, holding foes to 68.8 ppg and 42 percent field goal efficiency. However, they are not nearly as effective at the offensive end, ranking next-to-last in the league in both scoring (69.3 ppg) and assists (12.7 apg), while shooting 44.4 percent from the floor. Victor Rudd (15.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg) is the leading scorer on the roster, but he had just five points on a miserable 2-of-13 shooting effort against SMU. Corey Allen Jr. (11.8 ppg) is the only other player averaging in double figures for USF, which desperately misses point guard Anthony Collins, who has sat out the last seven games with a knee injury and does not seem to be anywhere close to returning.

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