Seventh-ranked Bearcats battle Mustangs in AAC action

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Updated: 2/08/2014 10:08 am

Dallas, TX ( - The seventh-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats head to the Lone Star State this weekend for an American Athletic Conference showdown with the SMU Mustangs at Moody Coliseum.

The Bearcats sit all alone atop the AAC standings with perfect 11-0 league ledger. The team's flawless run in conference play is part of a larger 15-game win streak, that continued this week at home in a come-from-behind win over nationally-ranked Connecticut (63-58). The 22-2 overall record is the team's best start under Mick Cronin as well as its best mark since going 26-2 to open the 2001-02 campaign.

Larry Brown was brought in to turn things around at SMU and the Mustangs have responded, including an 18-5 overall mark this year. League play has been a successful venture as well, with SMU having won its last two games to move to 7-3 in the AAC. The team improved to a perfect 12-0 at home with Thursday's 75-52 rout of Temple.

Cincinnati has won three of the four all-time meetings between these programs and seeks the regular-season sweep after recording a 65-57 win on New Year's Day.

It was certainly an impressive performance by All-American candidate Sean Kilpatrick, as he erupted for 26 points, while grabbing a career-high 12 rebounds and doling out six assists in leading the Bearcats past the Huskies this week. Justin Jackson continued his strong play in the frontcourt as well, posting 15 points, six rebounds and two blocks in the win.

Kilpatrick and Jackson have been the driving forces for Cincinnati all season long. Kilpatrick leads the conference in scoring at 19.7 ppg, due in large part to his team-best 64 3-pointers and a stellar .860 efficiency from the free-throw line (123-of-143). Jackson has evolved into one of the league's best interior players as the 6-foot-8 senior averages 11.4 ppg on .567 shooting, with 7.0 rpg and an AAC-best 3.25 bpg. Both players contribute at the defensive end, where Cincinnati ranks among the nation's best in scoring defense (56.8 ppg) and field-goal percentage defense (.386).

The Mustangs don't put up gaudy scoring totals, but they are an efficient bunch, shooting an impressive .494 from the field overall. The team also enjoys a rather larger rebounding margin (+7.3) and holds foes to just 61.3 ppg on well under 40 percent shooting (.368). Sophomore guard Nic Moore headlines the offensive attack for SMU with 13.7 ppg, thanks to his accuracy from long range (47-of-103, .456). Sophomore forward Markus Kennedy provides balance up front with 12.2 points and a team-high 7.4 rebounds per game.

SMU shot a scorching .544 from the floor and held the visiting Owls to a mere .303 effort in the 23-point romp on Thursday. Kennedy just missed a double- double with 14 points and nine rebounds. Shawn Williams added 14 points of his own, while Moore and Keith Frazier added 11 points apiece. SMU forced Temple into 15 turnovers, converting them into 16 points, while controlling the paint with a 40-22 advantage in points down low.

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