Cincinnati-Providence Preview

The Associated Press

While Cincinnati remains very much in the hunt for the Big East title, coach Mick Cronin wants his team to focus on the short-term.

The No. 17 Bearcats appear to be taking his words to heart.

Visiting Cincinnati aims for a sixth win in seven games and fourth in a row over Providence as these teams square off Wednesday night.

After climbing their way to No. 8 in the country behind a 12-0 start, the Bearcats (18-4, 6-3) took a few steps back by dropping three of four. Cincinnati, though, seems to have regained its luster and sits in a third-place tie in the conference - just one game behind first-place Syracuse.

"I think what happened is when we were in the Top 10, we got ahead of ourselves a little bit," Cronin said. "We started thinking about what could happen in March, what we were capable of, our standing on the national scene. We learned real quick that will get you beat.

"We've been focused on eliminating anything that has to do with the big picture, whether it's the Big East standings, the NCAA tournament, individual players' futures."

The Bearcats enter this game on a 5-1 run, with their only loss coming 57-55 at then-No. 3 Syracuse on Jan. 21. Cincinnati went on to beat Rutgers 62-54 last Wednesday, then pulled out a 65-59 win at Seton Hall on Saturday.

Averaging 24.3 points over his last four games, Sean Kilpatrick scored 21 while Cashmere Wright added 17 for the Bearcats, who shot 36.7 percent Saturday but held a 39-34 edge on the glass.

"If we continue to do what we've been doing for the past three or four games, we should be all right," Kilpatrick said.

Cincinnati had dropped four straight to Providence (11-11, 3-7) before taking the last three, including a one-sided 81-66 win last Feb. 15 behind Kilpatrick's 22 points. The Bearcats, though, got all they could handle during their last visit to Dunkin' Donuts Center before pulling away in overtime, 93-81 on Feb. 19, 2011.

The Friars are coming off their third win in 12 games, 55-52 at Villanova on Sunday. Leading the league with 21.4 points per game, Bryce Cotton finished with 18 by making the game-winning 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds left to go.

"It was a big shot," said Cotton, who went 5 for 12 from the field. "I couldn't hit anything, but LaDontae (Henton) set a great screen, and finally gave me enough space to knock down the shot."

Providence, which limited the Wildcats to an opponent season-low 27.5 percent shooting, is 11-1 when holding opponents to 67 points or fewer but 0-10 when it doesn't. The Bearcats, who average 72.3 points, have scored 65 or less in each of their last three games.

"If we defend, I think we have a chance to win basketball games," coach Ed Cooley said.

The Friars have lost six straight and 20 of their last 23 matchups against ranked foes. If Providence hopes to pull off an upset Wednesday, it will likely need to keep the Bearcats off the foul-line.

Cincinnati has gone 18-0 when attempting at least 13 free-throws compared to 0-4 when it doesn't.

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