Non-conference college hoops action comes to you from the City of Angels when the AAC takes on the Pac-12. The #25 Cincinnati Bearcats look to put a feather in their cap as they travel to face the UCLA Bruins Saturday afternoon. Cincinnati snapped a two game slide by beating Mississippi State 65-50 at home Tuesday night. UCLA had a four game win streak snapped with a 78-69 overtime loss at Michigan last Saturday. The teams have split four previous meetings with the Bruins winning the last two: that includes a 79-67 win in a second round matchup in the South Region of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on March 19, 2017.
Cincinnati Bearcats Seek Back to Back Wins
Cincinnati had lost two straight but managed to get back on the winning path as they took down Mississippi State their last time out. The Bearcats improved to 8-2 on the year with the win over the Bulldogs. Cincinnati led by 10 at the half and held Mississippi State at bay to hand the Bulldogs their first loss of the season. The Bearcats shot 40.7 percent from the field in the game and went seven of 20 from three point range. Cincinnati held Mississippi State to 30.2 percent shooting in the contest. Jacob Evans had 24 points and eight boards to lead the Bearcats in the win.
The Bearcats are a very good offensive unit as they are 63rd in the nation in scoring offense with 81.6 points per game. Cincinnati is tied for 17th in rebounding with 41.7 per game and 42nd in assists by dishing out 16.9 per game. The Bearcats are 9th in scoring defense as they allow just 60.6 points a night, making them an elite defensive unit. Jarron Cumberland is the team’s third leading scorer with 10.9 points plus 3.8 rebounds a night. Gary Clark (12.8 points, nine rebounds), Jacob Evans (team high 14.2 points, four rebounds, 3.4 assists) and Kyle Washington (10 points, five rebounds) all average in double figures for the Bearcats. Cane Broome, Justin Jenifer, Keith Williams and Trevor Moore are solid options for coach Mick Cronin. Cincinnati shoots 46.9 percent from the floor as a team on the year. The Bearcats knock down 8.3 threes a night while sinking 37.4 percent of their attempts. Cincinnati has to be better at the line than their collective 68.8 percent mark.
UCLA Bruins Try to Bounce Back After Loss to Michigan
UCLA was rolling along but saw things fall apart in the second half against Michigan in a game they eventually lost in overtime. The buzz around the school lately was that LiAngelo Ball was pulled out of school by his father, the blowhard LaVar Ball, since he had not been reinstated to the team following that shoplifting incident in China. UCLA led by as many as 15 against Michigan but saw the Wolverines rally before outscoring the Bruins 13-4 in overtime. The Bruins shot 43.9 percent from the field and went four of 18 from three point range in the game. UCLA won the rebounding battle 41-30 but turned the ball over 20 times: Aaron Holiday had 27 points and seven assists to lead the team.
The Bruins are 33rd in the nation in scoring offense as they pile up 84.8 points per game. UCLA is 11th in rebounding with 42.4 per game and are 91st in the nation with 15.6 assists per game. The Bruins do have some work to do defensively as they are 240th in scoring defense, allowing 75.4 points per game. UCLA is shooting 47.6 percent from the floor as a team this season. The Bruins knock down an average of 6.9 triples a night while draining 34.8 percent from beyond the arc. UCLA needs to improve at the free throw line as they are connecting on only 67.1 percent as a team. Aaron Holiday is good for 17.7 points plus 5.7 dimes along with two steals a game to lead the team. Kris Wilkes (12.3 points, six rebounds), Thomas Welsh (13.6 points, 10.8 rebounds), Jaylen Hands (11.8 points, 3.1 assists) and Prince Ali (10.7 points) are scoring in double figures as well. Gyorgy Goloman, Alex Olesinski and Chris Smith each put up more than five points a night so far this year for the Bruins.6-1 in Bearcats last 7 overall.
- Bearcats are 3-13-1 ATS in their last 17 road games vs. a team with a home winning % of greater than .600
- Bearcats are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 road games
- Bearcats are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 road games vs. a team with a winning home record
- No Key Trends
This one is a tough one to call. Cincinnati is the better defensive team by far but the Bearcats have had trouble with athletic teams like UCLA in the last few years. One needs to look no further that last season’s matchup in the NCAA Tournament for proof of that. UCLA doesn’t have much depth but that has been a perennial issue for the program. Still, they keep winning nonetheless. With this one being at Pauley Pavilion, you have to lean slightly toward the Bruins as they escape with an upset win.
Pick: UCLA Bruins +2
Cincinnati used their suffocating defense to stifle Mississippi State at home and, in the process, handed the Bulldogs their first loss of the season. Going on the road to face UCLA in the hallowed hall that is Pauley Pavilion may be a tougher task. There’s a lot of awe factor involved in playing in a venue that saw greats like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton and legendary coach John Wooden ply their craft. The Bruins aren’t deep but Steve Alford gets the most out of the guys he does have. Perhaps being freed of the specter of LaVar Ball complaining about things to get on TV every five seconds will be good for the program.
The under is 3-0-1 in the Bearcats’ last 4 games following a ATS win, 6-1 in their last 7 overall, 4-1 in their last 5 games following a straight up win and 39-12-1 in their last 52 road games vs. a team with a home winning % of greater than .600. This has the potential to be a higher scoring game but the total will inevitably be set too high for this one: take the under as Cincinnati slows the game down in an effort to control tempo on the road.