LOUISVILLE, Kent. -- We're hours from the second session of games here at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, where Purdue will face Cincinnati followed by Kentucky against... doesn't matter.
Travis already previewed the game here, but I figured I'd give it one more look, because I've got time to kill and Allie LaForce might get a restraining order if I continue to walk by her.
You likely already know if you've read anything about either of these teams that this game is expected to be a complete defensive slugfest. If Purdue wants to record its first win ever against Cincinnati, the key will likely be rebounding. The Bearcats are sixth in the nation in defensive scoring, holding teams to 55.6 points per game. For a Purdue team that barely cracks the top 100 in offensive scoring, that can be scary.
Yesterday Kendall Stephens said the Boilermakers feel like playing 20 Big Ten games has prepared them for the tough defense they'll see tonight.
"I think that Michigan State is a team that is really gritty and makes you work," Stephens said. "Even Penn State, as of late they go hard on the rebounds and take pride in making you work; they kind of make you play an ugly game. A lot of teams in the Big Ten kind of prepare you for what Cincinnati is like and they're kind of like a Big Ten team. I think we should be ready."
In fact, the only Big Ten team in the Top 50 nationally in defensive scoring is Wisconsin, who comes in at No. 9. In case you've forgotten, Purdue was 0-2 against Wisconsin this season in two tough games.
In those two games against Wisconsin - again, the only top 50 defensive team they've faced this season - Purdue was held to 55 and 51 points, even lower than Wisconsin's defensive average. In Purdue's first matchup with Wisconsin, which it lost 62-55, Purdue outrebounded the Badgers 26-21 in Madison, Wisc. Last week in the Big Ten Tourney, Purdue lost by 20 and was outrebounded 35-27.
So again, if Purdue wants to compete against a Cincinnati team that will likely force it to take shots outside its comfort zone, the key will be rebounding.
That starts with 7-foot A.J. Hammons and 7-foot-2 Isaac Haas, who will battle a duo of 6-foot-10 Bearcats, one of who is leading scorer Octavius Ellis.
"I practice with Corey (Coreoante DeBerry) every day, so I'm pretty used to it," Ellis told reporters yesterday. "It's nothng. But they 7-feet and the length, the length might not be a problem because I'm tall too. It's just gonna come down to being physical and me standing there and doing what I got to do."
Ellis dropped even more knowledge later, when asked if he thought the teams were similar because both relied on defense more than offense.
"Yeah, in a lot of ways, but we Cincinnati Bearcats," We just gonna come out and play Cincinnati Bearcats basketball."
Purdue seems to have a similar goal, just a different way of wording it.
"(Coach Painter just told us to) play hard and have fun," Vince Edwards said yesterday. "This is a life changing experience; he just told us to play hard and have fun."
Purdue and Cincinnati tip off at 7:10 tonight on CBS. The winner faces the winner of Kentucky-Hampton... aw, heck... the winner faces Kentucky Saturday.