Owls host 15th-ranked Bearcats in AAC showdown

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Updated: 1/26 7:58 am

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of teams sitting on opposite ends of the American Athletic Conference standings will square off on Sunday afternoon, as the 15th-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats head to the Liacouras Center to tangle with the Temple Owls.

Cincinnati has surged up the national rankings in recent weeks thanks to an 11-game winning streak, which includes a perfect 7-0 start in the AAC. The Bearcats continued their hot streak on Thursday night at home against UCF with a dominant 69-51 victory to move to 18-2 overall. They've also been stellar on the road, winning three of four.

Meanwhile, Temple has endured a disappointing campaign at just 5-12 overall while going winless in league play in six tries. The Owls have lost nine of their last 10 games, including a 90-66 setback at Connecticut on Tuesday night, and they have not found much solace on their home floor either (1-4).

These new conference rivals haven't played since 2006, when Cincinnati claimed an 80-71 decision to improve to 14-6 in the all-time series with the Owls.

The Bearcats made easy work of UCF in their most recent bout by shooting 47.2 percent from the field, while holding the Knights to a lowly 38.5 percent shooting and in the process held an opponent to under 70 points for the 27th straight game, the longest active streak in the nation. Sean Kilpatrick connected on 6-of-11 from the field, including 3-of-6 from 3-point range, on his way to a game-high 19 points. Justin Jackson scored 12 points and made his presence felt on the defensive end of the court with four steals and seven blocks, while Jermaine Sanders came off the bench to net 10.

Cincinnati's elite defense has carried it this season, as it holds opponents to just 38.3 percent shooting from the field, while ranking second nationally in scoring defense (55.9 ppg). While its offensive attack hasn't always been great (.425 FG percentage), its 70.8 ppg has been more than enough to support it. Kilpatrick is the catalyst with 18.6 ppg while boasting an outstanding free-throw percentage (.856). Jackson (11.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg) is one of the nation's best defenders with 3.6 bpg and 1.6 spg, chipping in to the team's outstanding +4.8 turnover margin.

Temple never stood a chance in its latest bout, as it got down to UConn by 14 at the half before finishing on the wrong end of the 24-point decision. It was outshot from the field in the blowout, 53.4 percent to 38.3 percent, and lost the rebounding battle by a hefty 45-25 margin. Will Cummings was impressive despite the setback with 20 points. Anthony Lee added 14 points, and Quenton DeCosey and Dalton Pepper poured in 12 points apiece.

Scoring points has rarely been a problem for the Owls this season, as they shoot field goals at 44.4 percent efficiency for 75.1 ppg. Their problem has come on the other end of the floor, where they yielding a lofty 76.2 ppg. They are also hindered by a -4.2 rebounding margin and a lackluster .670 free-throw percentage. Pepper has emerged as the go-to scorer with 17.0 ppg, doing so with great percentages from the field (.476), 3-point range (.430) and the foul line (.871). Cummings (16.4 ppg), DeCosey (16.1 ppg) and Lee (14.2 ppg, 9.3 rpg) are also in the midst of strong offensive campaigns.

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