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Revenge match? Maybe. The last time these teams faced off was at the beginning of January when Notre Dame came into Cincy and won on the Bearcats home court. That was in the midst of a three-game home losing streak for Cincinnati. It's unlikely they'll find extra inspiration because of that loss, but a road win over a ranked opponent never hurts.
Since being ranked as high as No. 17 a few weeks ago, Cincy has suddenly fallen into the depths of the Big East and are no longer a threat to compete for the title. They have lost four of their last five games and are in 10th place in conference play with a 7-7 record.
The Fighting Irish have been a little better and are coming off a nice road win at Pittsburgh, but prior to that, it wasn't looking pretty. They lost two bad road games at Syracuse and Providence in games in which they were never really close. Their only recent wins came in overtime, two of them against bottom-dwellers Depaul and of course their five-overtime battle against Louisville. It'll be interesting to see if they can carry the momentum from the Pitt win into this game at home.
This contest should be very similar to the last one that finished 66-60. In that game, both teams hit nine three-pointers and close to 50 percent from the field. It was slow-paced, but each team was efficient when they got into their half court sets (more so Notre Dame).
One player that struggled in that last meeting and consequently almost every game since, was Cashmere Wright. The Bearcats second leading scorer finished with just five points on 1-of-5 shooting. Wright continues to shoot plenty, but not very well. In fact, he's shooting below 25 percent from the field in his last eight games. That's been a big problem for Cincy because they don't have a ton of scorers and Wright takes 11 shots per game. Sean Kilpatrick will get his baskets, that's a given as he's averaging 18 points per game. Help will be needed from Wright and JaQuon Parker to put this game in the win column.
Notre Dame brings a balanced attack that the Bearcats couldn't really stop in the last game. All five of their starters reached double digits as they only got four points from the bench. Not getting bench production isn't always a good thing, but when all your starters are hitting shots, it doesn't matter.
Scott Martin is nearing return for the Fighting Irish, but he will likely miss this game, his ninth straight absence. Tom Knight has stepped up and put in solid minutes, however, missing a veteran like Martin always hurts. Leading scorers Jack Cooley, Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins have all been consistent for the most part which is why they each average more than 11 points per game. Cooley is a machine on the boards, getting at least 10 rebounds in nine straight games until the Pittsburgh contest in which he had nine. The x-factor in this game could be the sophomore Pat Connaughton. He's averaging over eight points per game, but in their last two losses he only has four total points. Usually when he plays poorly, the Fighting Irish lose.
The Bearcats don't have many wins over ranked teams on their schedule which is why this road game against Notre Dame could be very important when voters start looking at the crowded Big East.
Predicted Score - Notre Dame 63 Cincinnati 62
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