Cincinnati at West Virginia Preview

An old rivalry will renew against a former Big East foe tonight when the Bearcats travel to Morgantown for a 7 pm tip off inside WVU Coliseum.

Cincinnati improved to 3-4 in Big 12 play with Saturday's 68-57 win over UCF. The Cats will look to build on a second half that saw UC's defense limit UCF to just 18 points on 21 percent shooting. 

West Virginia (7-13, 2-5) enters Wednesday night's match up having lost consecutive games to UCF and Oklahoma State. 

Consistency has been an issue for the Mountaineers, who also own wins over Kansas and Texas inside WVU Coliseum. 

(Photo: Kathleen Batten, Associated Press)

Key Stats and Notes:

- West Virginia is 6-3 against UC in games played at the WVU Coliseum, including winning the last two meetings in 2010 and 2012. WVU was on a four-game winning streak over the Bearcats when the series ended in 2012 after West Virginia departed for the Big 12 and Cincinnati moved to the American Athletic Conference.

- The Mountaineers rank 152 in the NET ratings. Josh Eilert's squad is 7-5 in home games but 0-8 in road or neutral site games.

- Kenpom ranks West Virginia number-132. Offensive efficiency (#170) and defensive efficiency (#120) have both been areas of concern for West Va this season. West Va ranks last in the Big 12 offensively, averaging 68.3 points per game. They also rank last in the league defensively, giving up 72.3 points per game. 

The Bearcats lead the Big 12 and rank seventh nationally with a 10.0 rebound margin. West Virginia ranks last in rebounds per game, as well as rebound margin. UC is currently second to Houston in offensive rebounds, averaging 14 per game.

- Neither team has been great from beyond the arc this season. Both are shooting right around 33 percent from deep and average 7 makes per game.

- West Virginia makes 72.9 percent of their free throw attempts, while Cincinnati is up to 67 percent. After 3-straight games under 60 percent at the foul line, the Bearcats went 18-for-23 at Kansas (78 percent) and made their final 5 to close out UCF. Over the last four games, UC is averaging 22.8 foul shots per game, compared to 16.8 by opponents.

- John Newman is averaging 16 ppg, while shooting 59 percent from the field over the last four games. Cincinnati will need him to continue to play at a high level to pick up the road win tonight. 

Players to watch:

6-foot-5 Senior G RaeQuan Battle

Battle continues to lead West Virginia in scoring with an average of 16.3 points per game, but he's struggled mightily in his last two games against UCF and Oklahoma State, scoring five and two points.

A Montana State transfer, Battle was named All Big Sky First Team and Big Sky Tournament MVP. Battle isn't known as a 3-point shooter (26 percent) but he is shooting 41 percent from the field and has made 78 percent of his free throw attempts.
6-foot-11 Senior C Jesse Edwards,

Edwards is averaging 13.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg but missed nine games with a fractured wrist sustained in the loss at Massachusetts. Edwards returned against Oklahoma State and played 16 minutes off the bench, scoring four points and grabbing four rebounds. The Syracuse transfer averaged a double-double (14.5 ppg, 10.3 rpg) during the 2022-23 season and leads West Va in blocks per game, with 1.5. 

6-foot-9 Senior F Quinn Slazinski

Slazinski started his career at Louisville before playing at Iona this past season. The Houston native is currently averaging 13.7 ppg and makes 41.2 percent of his field goal attempts. Slazinski is second on the team in rebounds per game, 4.5, and is coming off an 18-point performance against Oklahoma State. A 33 percent 3-point shooter, he made 4-of-6 attempts in the loss at Oklahoma State. 

6-foot-1 Senior G Noah Farrakhan

An Eastern Michigan transfer, Farrakhan is currently averaging 11.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg after missing the first nine games of the season. Farrakhan has seen a mixed bag of results during his first season with the Mountaineers. He scored in double figures in five of his first 6 games, but has reached double figures just once over the last five games. Farrakhan finished with nine points, seven rebounds against Oklahoma State.

6-foot-3 Senior G Kerr Kriisa

Bearcats fans should be familiar with Kriisa. He finished with eleven points, seven assists in Arizona's 101-93 win over UC last season in the Maui Invitational. 

Kriisa missed the first ten games of the season due to suspension from receiving impermissible benefits while at Arizona, but has returned to average 11 points, 4.5 assists, and 2.6 rebounds per game.  West Virginia has struggled to consistently knock down shots from the perimeter, but Kriisa has been the one consistent threat, making 43.1 percent of his attempts. Kriisa made 6-of-8 attempts against Oklahoma State and finished with 21 points. 

6-foot-3 Junior G Kobe Johnson

Johnson began the season playing over 30 minutes per game but has seen those minutes decline over the last eleven games with West Virginia getting guys back for a variety of reasons. Johnson averaged nearly seven points per game, with the majority of those stats being a product of scoring in double figures in four of the first seven games. 

6-foot-7 Sophomore F Josiah Harris

Harris came off the bench to score 15 points in the UCF loss. In that game, he made 5-of-8 three-point attempts. 

6-foot-8 Senior F Patrick Suemnick
Suemnick has struggled of late after posting 16 points in a home win over Texas and 20 in the upset victory against Kansas. The 6-foot-8 senior forward failed to score in 27 minutes of action against UCF and tallied just two points in 14 minutes of work against Oklahoma State.

Final Thoughts:

This isn't your typical "Press Virginia" team that Huggins built on defense, rebounding, and toughness. The Mountaineers have been out-rebounded by an average margin of ten rebounds in their five Big 12 losses. In their two wins, they tied Texas in rebounds and out-rebounded Kansas by nine, 31-22. 

West Virginia is last in the league, forcing an average of 10.8 turnovers per game, while committing 12.1 turnovers per game. 

"Cincinnati is a team that plays really, really physical," West Virginia coach Josh Eilert said. "With some of the teams we've struggled with, between UMass, Houston and Central Florida, they're right up there with those type of teams in terms of their physicality, so we're going to have to match that physicality. They are a very, very good offensive rebounding team, and that's something we're going to have to shore up."

Limit turnovers and continue to rebound at a high level and the Bearcats should get back to .500 in league play heading in to Saturday's match up at 15th-ranked Texas Tech.


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