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Williams still worried about Bearcats despite UC’s home losing skid

When Marquette made the trip to Cincinnati last season, it had won 12 of its last 13 games and was coming off quite possibly its most memorable win of the Buzz Williams era.

Jae Crowder had asserted himself as the top candidate for Big East Player of the Year and the Golden Eagles were 13-3 in conference play.

Marquette proceeded to get run out of Fifth Third Arena in a 72-61 loss that was worse than the final score indicated. Coming off a 61-60 road win at West Virginia, it was a shock to the Golden Eagles’ system.

“I thought it was the worst game we played last year,” coach Buzz Williams said. “Our goal last year was to win 13 games in the Big East, which would have been the most ever in school history.

“The game prior to our game at Cincinnati we had won our 13th game and the next game I’m telling our guys ‘They’re about to beat our head,’” Williams said. “I’m not trying to motivate you, I’m telling you it’s coming.”

Williams was right and the Bearcats are probably eager to do so again when Marquette travels to Cincinnati tomorrow night.

Redshirt junior forward Jamil Wilson stressed the Golden Eagles’ improvement in their ball screen defense and on-ball presence after their win over Seton Hall Wednesday and he says they will need to do so again to have a chance on Saturday.

“Sometimes we have miscommunications on ball screens or on straight-line drives and we get into a rotation too much and they end up swinging the ball get a wide open look or drive to the basket,” Wilson said. “So we have two days to stay solid, watch some film and things like that.

“I think once we compete better as an on-ball defender and not have as many lapses on ball screens and better communication, then that will help us a lot,” Wilson said.

Cincinnati started the season 12-0 including neutral site wins over Iowa State, Oregon and Xavier. The Bearcats have proceeded to lose three of their next six games, including three straight at home.

Their last home win came in a 68-58 victory over Wright State on Dec. 22.

The Bearcats feature one of the best backcourts in the Big East with Cashmere Wright, Sean Kilpatrick and JaQuon Parker, but Wright is uncertain to play after suffering a knee injury suffered in Cincinnati’s 75-70 road win at DePaul Tuesday.

Kilpatrick leads the team in scoring (17.3 points per game) and is tied for second in rebounding (5.5 rebounds per game).

Wright averages 15.1 points per game and shoots 44.2 percent from three-point range, the best mark on the team. Wright also leads the team in free throw percentage (78.8 percent). The Bearcats would miss his leadership if he is unable to go Saturday.

And Parker rounds out the threesome with an 11.1 point-per-game average to go along with 4.6 rebounds per game.

But Williams isn’t just worried about those three players.

“I think that their roster is the most unspoken of the BCS teams,” Williams said. “I think they have 11 high-major players. They’re really good, really tough, really strong and can score in a myriad of ways.”

The Bearcats’ frontcourt is still figuring out a way to replace Yancy Gates’ production from last year (12.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game), but the combination of Cheikh Mbodj, Justin Jackson, David Nyarsuk and Titus Rubles has been serviceable through 18 games.

Cincinnati ranks sixth in the country in rebounds per game (42.9) and grab 35.6 percent of their misses on offense. It also takes 34 percent of its shots from three-point range and make 34.5 percent of those shots.

This game should be somewhat of a defensive struggle because the Bearcats allow its opponents to score just 58.6 points per game, the No. 5 mark in the Big East.

The Bearcats can be beat at the free throw line, where they shoot just 64.4 percent as a team and also allow its opponents to rebound 34.4 percent of their misses on the offensive end.

“I think they pose a lot of problems for us,” Williams said. “I know they’ve lost two games at home by two (points) and they’re undefeated on the road. They’ll be really excited to play us.”

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