Open in App
All Bearcats

Preview Paw Prints: Houston Cougars Road Matchup

By Russ Heltman,


Cincinnati has not won a signature game in over a year, and is running out of time to bag one this season.

CINCINNATI — UC basketball (14-7, 5-3) travels to face No. 3 Houston (19-2, 7-1) this weekend in a game that determines their at-large NCAA tournament fate.

Houston just dropped their first conference game to Temple this past weekend but rebounded to beat a top-60 UCF team 82-71 on the road Wednesday night. The Bearcats enter the contest as massive underdogs in a must-win game.

They are ranked 68th in KenPom, while Houston is first. ESPN's Matchup Predictor has Cincinnati losing 96.8% of the time.

Here's the preview as UC tries to avoid an eighth-straight loss to Houston.

Backs Against The Wall

14 months.

That's how long it's been since UC hoops notched a signature win, let alone a top-10 or ranked victory. Wes Miller's crew is beating bad teams like a drum, but through the first season and a half of his tenure—the big wins haven't happened.

Every coach needs time and Miller has shown more than enough to preach patience, but at a program like Cincinnati, going two full seasons without one of those victories is tough to swallow.

"It's going to be hard to win when the two best players on the other team have lines like that," Miller said after Sunday's loss to Memphis. "We didn't do a good enough job preparing, and we didn't do a good enough job executing. I'm disappointed with how we played. I think we've been playing good basketball. That wasn't the case tonight."

Miller was talking about reigning AAC Player of the Year Kendric Davis and Deandre Williams, the perfect encapsulation of UC's problem: it employs a sound system and coaching staff but doesn't have the talent for that system to withstand great opposition like those two.

That's especially true with this team headed to the Big 12 next season. It's going to be even harder to capture those big wins. Every Big 12 team, except Texas Tech (70th), is rated higher than UC on KenPom, and seven (!!!) of those teams are in the top 26.

Unless some major talent transfers to UC, the Big 12 will be an absolute buzzsaw next season. All while it likely carries a four-year March Madness drought into the new league, their second-longest in the past 30 years.

Team Rankings gives UC a whopping 1% chance to get an at-large bid this season and a 6% chance to win the AAC Tournament. Their at-large odds have dropped 66% over the past three weeks and get kissed goodbye with another loss to the Cougars.

All that before moving from a two-bid league (ninth overall) to an eight-bid league (second behind Big 10).

© Albert Cesare / The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Rob's Return?

Guard Rob Phinisee looked spry in practice on Tuesday and may be ready to return after breaking his foot at the end of November.

Can he be the boost this backcourt's needs amidst Jeremiah Davenport's rough shooting season ? We should start to find out on Saturday.

"He practiced a little bit yesterday," Miller said after the loss to Memphis. "He's been shooting. Trying to get back into that. Yesterday is the first time he participated—did not participate in a full practice but parts of practice. So day-to-day, and hopefully we'll have him back at some point here soon."

There's no guarantee he plays until we approach tip-off on Saturday, but he'd be a nice boost in what could be Cincinnati's last regular-season chance to beat a ranked team.

How impactful he'll be in this first game back is a big question. Offensively, fans shouldn't expect much. Phinisee was 6-of-24 on FG attempts in his first eight games and had just 8 assists. Yet, his defense could be a factor against the eighth-best team nationally in offensive efficiency.

Phinisee is tied for fourth on the team in defensive box plus/minus and has the best defensive rating of his career this season.

© Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Willing Walker

Cincinnati didn't get dominated in their 72-59 loss to Houston, but it never felt like they were going to win. Freshman Jarace Walker (10.4 Pts, 6.5 Reb, 1.8 Ast) cooked UC for 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals in a physical outing.

That pure talent echoes what I laid out earlier, and the UC response was typical of this team over the past two years. Inconsistency.

Jeremiah Davenport and David DeJulius combined to go 3-for-19 from the field.

That just cannot happen from two veterans in games as important as these. A similar story this past Sunday, Mika Adams-Woods was great against Houston (19 points, 8-of-11 shooting, three assists), but then goes 1-of-10 for 2 points against Memphis.

UC's entire backcourt has to be on its A-game if they want to even keep this game within single digits, let alone pull the road upset.

Houston has too many options like Walker on its whole roster to ask anything less. Oh, and don't expect them to get sleepy in a conference game again having already suffered a loss in league play.

The Cougars rank top-four nationally in seven traditional defensive metrics, including three-point percentage (26%), FG percentage (34.7%), and points (54.2).

Toppling that takes a team offensive effort.

© Albert Cesare / The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Check out the game on CBS this Saturday at 2:15 p.m. ET. It's available via fuboTV— start your free trial here .

Make sure you bookmark All Bearcats for the latest news, exclusive interviews, film breakdowns and so much more.

You May Also Like the following:

Recruiting Roundup: Four-Star Athlete Places UC Among Top Schools, Bearcats Send Out Offer Flurry

Watch: Landers Nolley II On His Shooting Leap, Adjusting To A New Team, Facing Houston

Weekly NET: Bearcats Move Up Slightly In Rankings

UC Guard Landers Nolley II Cracks Consecutive AAC Honor Rolls

Three Man Weave: UC Stumbles 75-68 Against Memphis

Watch: Wes Miller, David DeJulius Discuss 75-68 Loss To Memphis

Look: UC Football Starts Up Offseason Workouts

Florida Cornerback Jordan Young Announces Transfer To Cincinnati

2024 Four-Star Tight End Dylan Mesman Places UC In Top-10 Schools

Three Man Weave: Cincinnati Guts Out 54-52 Win Over SMU

Ahmad 'Sauce' Gardner Enrolling Back In School To Finish UC Degree

Recruiting Roundup: Three More Local Talents Visiting UC

Ahmad 'Sauce' Gardner Named To AP 2022-23 NFL All-Pro Team

Washington State Wide Receiver Donovan Ollie Transfers To Cincinnati

NFL Players Name Kelce Brothers First-Team All-Pros

Ahmad 'Sauce' Gardner Finishes Season Ranked First in Man Coverage Yards Allowed

Temple Kicker Rory Bell Announces Transfer To Cincinnati

Scott Satterfield: 'Throwing Egos Out The Window' In Building UC Staff

Cincinnati Adds North Carolina A&T Wide Receiver Sterling Berkhalter, Louisville WR Dee Wiggins


Be sure to keep it locked on All Bearcats all the time!

Follow All Bearcats on Twitter: @AllBearcats

Like All Bearcats on FaceBook: All Bearcats

Follow All Bearcats on Instagram: @BearcatsTalk

Expand All
Comments / 0
Add a Comment
Most Popular newsMost Popular

Comments / 0