New Mexico (12-1) at (8) Cincinnati (12-0)
Thursday, December 27, 9 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Fifth Third Arena (13,176) -- Cincinnati, Ohio. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: UNM 7-1, UC 8-0. Away Record: UNM 2-0, UC 1-0. Neutral Record: UNM 3-0, UC 3-0. Conference Record: UNM 0-0, UC 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The New Mexico Lobos look to bounce back on Thursday when they visit Fifth Third Arena for a non-conference bout with the No. 8 Cincinnati Bearcats.
The Lobos dropped to 12-1 on Dec. 22 after they were stunned 70-65 at home by the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. Coach Steve Alford's squad rose to a high of 16 in the polls before the loss sent it back to the realm of the unranked. New Mexico was impressive before its first loss of the season as it took down notable opponents such as Connecticut (66-60), Valparaiso (65-52), Illinois- Chicago (66-59), and Davidson (86-81). The Lobos are outscoring their opponents by an average of 8.7 points per contest, while also grabbing 4.3 rebounds more per game.
Mick Cronin's Bearcats are 12-0 for the eighth time in school history. Cincinnati is just one of five undefeated teams left in Division I entering Thursday's action. The team handled intrastate rivals Xavier (60-45) and Wright State (68-58) in its last two outings. The Bearcats have been dominant with a scoring average of 79.8 points per game to their opposition's 57.7 ppg.
This will be the first meeting in history between these programs on the basketball court.
New Mexico could not find the touch on the offensive end its last time out as it converted just 37 percent of its field goal attempts including only 8-of-24 from beyond the arc. The Lobos allowed SDSU to knock down 48 percent of its shots from the floor and hold a 36-28 edge in the rebounding battle. Kendall Williams led UNM with 21 points on 6-of-15 shooting from the field off the bench while Tony Snell chipped in 13 points. Williams has started 11-of-13 games this season and leads the team with 14.8 points and five assists per outing. Snell is adding 11.6 ppg and Alex Kirk is providing 10.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game up front.
Although Cincy's winning streak has continued, the team was slowed down on the offensive end its last two times out. The Bearcats were held under 70 points just once before totaling 60 points versus Xavier and 68 against Wright State. They also were held to a season-low 32.8 percent shooting from the field by Xavier before improving to 38.2 percent field goal accuracy against the Raiders. The Bearcats have relied heavily on their elite backcourt of Sean Kilpatrick, Cashmere Wright, and JaQuon Parker. Kilpatrick has emerged as an early season All-American candidate by netting 19.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per contest. Wright is a solid floor general with 14.2 points and 3.4 assists per outing. The senior guard showed he is not afraid to take the big shot versus Alabama as he hit the game-winner as the buzzer sounded to down the Crimson Tide. Parker is a solid third option with 11.6 ppg.
New Mexico lost to a decent opponent its last time out, but it will face an even greater test against the Bearcats on the road. Cincy will need to keep itself motivated and improve upon its last two outings where it was lackadaisical on the offensive end.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cincinnati 70, New Mexico 66
12/27 10:33:54 ET