Nov 26, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats guard Troy Caupain (10) passes the ball to forward Gary Clark (11) against the Lipscomb Bisons in the first half at Fifth Third Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Hilton Coliseum will be fully alive for the first this season tonight when the Cincinnati Bearcats (5-1) roll into Ames for an 8 p.m. tip on ESPN.
The Bearcats will bring their usual hard-nosed, grind-it-out style that has made Mick Cronin’s teams so successful. Plus, they come in with a handful of players that are pretty dynamic on both ends of the floor.
Here’s five points before Cincinnati visits Hilton Coliseum:
1 — Everything to know about Cincinnati hoops in 208 words
Cronin’s squad enters Thursday’s game with wins over Brown, Albany, Penn State, Samford and Lipscomb. The team’s only loss came at the hands of, at the time No. 21, Rhode Island.
This will be the Bearcats’ first true road game of the season. They could also potentially be without junior forward Gary Clark as he is considered day-to-day while recovering from an ankle injury.
Even if they don’t have Clark (who is averaging 7.3 points and 5.7 rebounds this season), Cincinnati enters the game with a pair of double-digit scorers in 6-foot-6-inch sophomore guard Jacob Evans and 6-foot-9-inch NC State-transfer Kyle Washington.
It is Washington that’s been especially dynamic for the Bearcats early this season as he’s averaging 16.8 points and 9.3 rebounds during his first year in action with the team. Evans is pouring in a team-high 17.8 points per game while shooting an efficient 59 percent from the floor and 46 percent from behind-the-arc.
Senior guard Troy Caupain has also added 9.5 points and a team-high 4.8 assists per game this season.
Iowa State won last year’s game between the two squads 81-79 on an Abdel Nader game-winning shot in Cincinnati.
2 — The Bearcats will bring the intensity
Cincinnati is always going to play an intense, physical brand of basketball as long as Cronin is the head coach there. They’re going to play a number of defenses and try a lot of different things to try an force Iowa State off-balance.
“They are physical up-front with Gary Clark, Kyle Washington’s a really, really good player,” Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm said. “This is the first time I’ve really got a chance to watch him play. Jacob Evans is a true wing that can really play. They can go small and put him at the four and try to do a mismatch like we do with Burton. They’re good. They change defense, the matchup zone, the 2-2-1. We’ve got to make sure we’re getting a good shot every time down against them. I think we’ll match the intensity, especially being here at Hilton.”
The Bearcats averaged 12.5 offensive rebounds per game, so keeping them off the second-chance glass will likely be a big key for the Cyclones. On the bright side, Iowa State has been able to neutralize teams on the boards in almost every game to start the season.
3 — Ball-pressure will be key
One of the biggest differences from the first half to the second in Iowa State’s loss to Gonzaga was the Cyclones’ ball-pressure. Iowa State was flying around and keeping the Bulldogs from being able to create any sort of offensive rhythm.
That will be important on Thursday, especially when playing a team that has athletes like Cincinnati.
“Our ball pressure’s got to be really good. We’ve got to be active,” Prohm said. “All these games, Gonzaga can score. Cincinnati, they’ve got guys that are tough to guard. Washington’s tough, Evans is tough, Caupain’s very, very good. You’re going to win this game, again, on the defensive end. Can we make the tough plays, can we guard them and then offensively can we execute and take good shots.”
4 — Iowa State will need to find good shots
Like mentioned above, Cincinnati is going to play a number of different defenses to try and keep Iowa State off-balance. That won’t be anything new for the Cyclones, especially since Gonzaga changed looks quite frequently in the game on Sunday.
That said, Iowa State will need to keep the ball moving from side-to-side, something that’s especially crucial when facing zone defenses, rather than getting into all-out isolation, dribble-creation type situations. I don’t know exactly what the numbers are, but I’m willing to bet Chris Williams’ money the Cyclones shoot a much better percentage off the pass this season than the dribble.
“Our biggest thing, sometimes when our offense is bad is we’re just shot selection is poor and the ball doesn’t move,” Prohm said. “We’re shooting it so fast and that’s what we did early to get down against Gonzaga. We were trading baskets, trading baskets and then we started missing, they kept making and now we’re down 15.”
5 — Taking care of the ball
This point could be used for every game on Iowa State’s schedule, but it will be notably important against the Bearcats. During its first six games, Cincinnati has forced teams into 16.7 turnovers per game.
Iowa State leads the Big 12 with just 11 turnovers per game and they’ll need to keep that number low on Thursday. If they’re able to do that and limit the Bearcats on the boards, it could be a fun, and raucous, night at Hilton Coliseum.