Cincinnati has lost its last two games and that is not good news for Lipscomb Bisons coach Scott Sanderson.
The Bearcats, ranked 25th nationally, lost in overtime 83-79 at Xavier in a physical game Sunday, Dec. 13. Wednesday night they lost 64-74 at Alabama-Birmingham.
“They are a big, physical, strong and athletic team,” said Sanderson. “They have a lot of guys who can play. When they are right they are very talented.
“They are coming off a couple of losses. We don’t know how they are going to react to that. I’m more concerned about how we have prepared and how we play. We look forward to the opportunity.”
Sanderson is preparing for the Bearcats to use an 11-man rotation Saturday when the two teams tip-off at 1 p.m. They have three players averaging in double figures – freshman guard Lance Stephenson (12.3), sophomore forward Yancy Gates (11.8) and senior guard Deonta Vaughn (10.2). Gates, 6-foot-9, also leads the Bearcats in rebounds with 7.3.
“Everybody in the country recruited Stephenson,” said Sanderson. “He is a 6-foot-5 wing player. He is really good. Vaughn has been first team All-Big East the last two years.”
The Bearcats are 6-3 overall, 4-0 on their home court. The Bisons are 4-5, 2-3 on the road.
The Bisons have won their last two games and four of their last five. They have four players averaging in double figures in scoring – junior center Adnan Hodzic (21.8), junior guard Josh Slater (17), junior forward Brandon Brown (13.9) and sophomore guard Jordan Burgason (10.5). Burgason is also averaging three 3-point field goals per game.
“We have told our guys in practice that we either have to score early or score late,” said Sanderson. “We are averaging 85 points a game. We can’t turn down good shots by the right people and there is a fine line between good shots and bad shots.
“And if we don’t score in transition we have to make five, six or seven passes to get a good shot. Understanding the difference between good shots and bad shots is concept that is sometimes very difficult for a team to digest. We have to make them guard the possession. And if they have to guard the possession they get the ball fewer times.”
The Bearcats are strong rebounding team, averaging 43.4 per game while holding opponents to 34.3 per game. The Bisons are averaging 37.9 rebounds per game with Hodzic leading the way with 7.4 boards per game. The Bisons have been holding opponents to an average of 32.1 per game.
“A fourth of their offense is going to the backboard and sticking the ball back in,” said Sanderson. “They have so much size and length.
“We are a very good rebounding team, but that is going to be a pivotal stat for us. If we do miss, can we rebound it? We will have to rebound by committee. We will be sending all five guys to the defensive glass.”
One area that the Bisons will be stressing will be keeping turnovers at a minimum.
“Josh’s play at the point guard spot is one of the reasons we have won four of our last five games,” said Sanderson. “We have cut down on our turnovers.
“Limiting our unforced turnovers will be another critical stat for us. We can’t get off to a slow start like we did against Vanderbilt a month ago. We have to take care of the basketball when they are pressing. We have to attack the goal at the other end of the floor.”
The Bisons have balanced practice this past week with completing final exams for the fall semester. Exams ended Thursday.
“We had to take a couple of days off because of exams,” said Sanderson. “They are more mentally tired than physically tired.
“Knowing what Cincinnati is going to do is not a difficult thing. Trying to stop what they are going to do is the difficult thing. We have to be able to combat what they are trying to do to us.”
The Bisons will close out the pre-Christmas schedule Monday night at 8 when they visit Tucson, Ariz., to play Arizona.Written by Mark McGee, Senior Writer/Director of Media Relations