No. 24 Cincinnati comes to visit Pirates
Losers of six of their past seven games, the men’s basketball returns home to the Prudential Center on Saturday to face the No. 24 Cincinnati Bearcats. The two teams enter the game at opposite ends of the Big East standings with the Hall in a tie for 12th with a 2-6 conference record and the Bearcats in a tie for fourth at 5-3.
“One of our issues all year is consistency,” head coach Kevin Willard said after the St. John’s game. “It’s a little bit of a learning process with this team but we have to come out in the second half and that’s been our issue.”
During this recent stretch, the Pirates have been outscored by an average of 10.2 points per game, while shooting 41.5 percent.
“We got to work on certain guys taking better shots,” Willard said. “Understanding, if you are not having a good night it’s probably not a good idea to take a shot. We don’t seem to understand that right now, we just think if we are not having a good night maybe it’s like horse and we keep cucking it up it will go in.”
Cincinnati, after starting 1-2 in conference play have won four of their past five with the lone defeat being a two point loss on the road to then No. 3 Syracuse.
Leading the way for the Bearcats is junior Sean Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick is the Big East’s third leading scorer with 18.4 points per game and is second on the team in rebounding.
This game will feature Willard going head to head against Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin. The two head coaches know each other well from being assistant coaches together under Rick Petino at Louisville from 2001-03.
Currently Cronin holds the 2-0 advantage over Willard in their head coaching matchups, but the two are still close off the court.
“It’s unusual because we are all very, very close,” Cronin said at Big East media day. “We spend a lot of time together but you have to compete in recruiting. The coaching part is what it is. In the game if you lost that means he won, so as upset as you are at the loss, you have a small percentage of you that you know he won and every Big East win is a big win.”
Along with the two coaches being close, Seton Hall sophomore Brandon Mobley and Cincinnati senior Cashmere Wright also know each other well.
Wright said that he probably met Mobley at 11 years old, living in the same apartment complex in Savannah, Ga. This season Wright is second on the Bearcats averaging 14.5 points per game on a team that reached as high as No. 8 in national rankings this season.
The two grew up playing on the same Rec league teams but their friendship is more than just teammates.
“We are actually friends so we talk about everything,” Wright said. “We are friends, more so than basketball.”
Tip-off is scheduled to start at 11:00 a.m. which has been a problem start time for the Pirates this season as they are 0-3 in games that start at noon.
Stephen Valenti can be reached at Stephen.firstname.lastname@example.org.