Big East Basketball Tournament - Cincinnati v Georgetown

Cincinnati aims to keep leading scorer Sean Kilpatrick fresh during preseason

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Entering the 2012-13 season there were high hopes for Cincinnati wing Sean Kilpatrick and the redshirt senior certainly didn’t disappoint, averaging 17.0 points and 5.2 rebounds per game for a team that reached the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive season under head coach Mick Cronin. Kilpatrick’s production opened a door in the form of a spot on the United States World University Games roster, with whom he averaged 7.5 points and 2.0 rebounds per game.

While having the opportunity to represent one’s country is certainly a positive, as are the games against solid competition, there’s also the concern once the college season begins that a player can get worn down. That’s something the Bearcats are looking to avoid with Kilpatrick, and the focus on keeping their leading scorer isn’t solely about fitness for Cincinnati.

“Five years is a long time to be in college basketball. What he did this summer with Team USA was great for his career,” Cronin said following the Bearcats’ first practices of the season Saturday (they held two sessions). “My concern is to not burn him out. We need to keep him fresh. There’s not much more he needs to learn about college basketball. We’ve got to get him help on the offensive end. Get him more open shots.

“He’s a guy I’ve got to make sure to keep his legs fresh all year because of what he went through this summer. This is his fifth year so I need to keep this fresh and keep this fun because you never have to worry about his intensity level.”

Kilpatrick finished the 2012-13 season with a possession percentage of 25.5% per kenpom.com, and of the other three Bearcats with a possession percentage above 20% two are gone (guard Cashmere Wright and forward JaQuon Parker). The returnee: senior forward Titus Rubles, who averaged 5.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game in his first season at Cincinnati.

So who steps up offensively to help out Kilpatrick? Rubles would be one possibility (he’s also the team’s leading returnee in assists), and role players such as Ge’Lawn Guyn, Jermaine Sanders and Shaquille Thomas will need to take advantage of the minutes and scoring opportunities available now with Parker and Wright gone.

Sean Kilpatrick’s going to get his points, but Cincinnati returning to the NCAA tournament will depend on whether or not his teammates prove capable of helping shoulder the offensive load.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Some conference matchups play out before football

Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, left, reacts after scoring a basket against Utah during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. Oregon defeated Utah 77-59. (AP Photo/George Frey)
(AP Photo/George Frey)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Utah at No. 16 Oregon, 4:00 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s Weekend Preview:

Utah suffered one of the worst losses I’ve seen in a while on Thursday night, when Brandon Taylor, for some unknown reason, decided to foul an Oregon State player firing up a half court prayer at the buzzer. The Utes, who are arguably the second-best team in the Pac-12, will look to bounce-back on Sunday against the best team in the Pac-12, No. 16 Oregon at 4:00 p.m.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. No. 12 SMU will attempt to stay atop the American standings as they travel to South Florida. While the Mustangs won the first matchup between these two teams at home by 14, they’ve dropped their last two games on the road.

2. A few more American contests are going down as East Carolina travels to UConn and Houston heads to Tulsa. The game between the Cougars and Golden Hurricane is especially interesting because both teams are sitting two games back of SMU and trying to make a move on the postseason.

3. No. 5 Iowa continues the soft part of the schedule as they face Illinois on the road. The Hawkeyes posted recent easy victories over Northwestern and Penn State and will be heavily favored again on Sunday.

4. Could be an intriguing game as No. 17 Miami travels to Georgia Tech. Although the Yellow Jackets aren’t a major contender in the ACC, they’ve been tough this season, especially at home. The Hurricanes fell victim to Georgia Tech last season while they were ranked by Marcus Georges-Hunt has to get back on track after a recent slump for that to happen.

5. There is an Atlantic 10 game that will be featured on NBCSN on Sunday: Saint Louis at St. Bonaventure (2:00 p.m.).

CLICK HERE to watch these games on NBC Sports Live Extra Sunday afternoon.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.