Memphis, TN (SportsNetwork.com) - Long-time rivals square off on Saturday afternoon, as the Cincinnati Bearcats pay a visit to the 18th-ranked Memphis Tigers for an American Athletic Conference clash at FedExForum.
Both teams come in sporting impressive overall records, and each won its inaugural AAC game the last time out.
Cincinnati is 12-2 on the season, and the team has won five straight games, the most recent of which being a 65-57 decision at home against SMU in the league opener on New Year's Day. The Bearcats lost their only true road game of the season in a 63-54 verdict at New Mexico on Dec. 7.
Memphis has won its last three games, including an 88-73 decision at USF on New Year's Eve. As a result, the Tigers currently sit at 10-2 overall and they have been highly successful at home this season, logging a 6-0 record.
There is plenty of history between these two teams, with Cincinnati leading the all-time series by a 36-31 count. Memphis has won the last four meetings, the most recent of which being a 60-45 triumph at home on Dec. 29, 2008.
Justin Jackson scored 17 points and grabbed six rebounds to help push Cincinnati past visiting SMU the last time out, as the Bearcats wound up with four players in double figures despite shooting just 36.5 percent from the floor, which included a poor 4-of-16 effort from 3-point range. Sean Kilpatrick tacked on 13 points and also grabbed six boards, while Shaquille Thomas and Jermaine Sanders chipped in with 10 points apiece for UC, which notched a 23-8 edge in points from the foul line while taking advantage of 17 turnovers by the Mustangs.
Kilpatrick is the AAC's leading scorer at 18.6 ppg, while he also serves as the team's primary playmaker with 38 assists. He also has more 3-point baskets (35) than the majority of his teammates have attempts. Jackson is the club's only other double-digit scorer at the moment, netting 11.8 ppg while also coming up with a team-high 7.7 rpg, and he has a whopping 45 blocked shots, all while shooting 53.9 percent from the field. As a team, Cincinnati is putting up 72.5 ppg while allowing only 56.5 ppg. Significant margins in both rebounding (+7.1) and turnovers (+5.6) have also helped the team's cause.
Balance was the key in the Tigers' recent win at USF, as Geron Johnson hit for 19 points, both Joe Jackson and Michael Dixon, Jr. tallied 18 apiece, and David Pellom tacked on 10. Memphis shot 52.4 percent from the floor, hitting 8-of-19 3-point attempts along the way, while limiting the Bulls to 42.3 percent field goal efficiency, and not allowing them any success from beyond the arc (0-of-9). The UM bench nearly doubled the production of the home team's, 33-17, but the Tigers had the same thing happen to them at the foul line, as they were outscored there by a 29-14 margin.
For the season, Memphis boasts three double-digit scorers in Jackson (15.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.7 apg), Shaq Goodwin (12.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 22 blocks) and Dixon, Jr. (11.3 ppg, ), each of whom plays an integral role in the team lighting up the scoreboard to the tune of 82.8 ppg. From a defensive standpoint, the Tigers are permitting 69.8 ppg, and foes are converting only 29.2 percent of their 3-point tries. Unfortunately, Memphis isn't shooting much better from distance (.307), but favorable differentials in both rebounding (+2.7) and turnovers (+4.8) have helped mask any potential shortcomings.