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Alex Frank | Sports Director

The Cincinnati Bearcats men’s basketball team returns home tonight at 7 p.m. to face the Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions following their Emerald Coast Classic tournament victory.

Head coach Mick Cronin reminded every member of the media at his press conference Monday that while it’s a business for the media members and himself and that the players are on scholarship, the players are still young kids and there’s got to be an element of fun to it.

“You got to allow them guys to have some fun,” Cronin said. “We all grind it out. I’m just as bad as anybody talking about hard work and focus on the process. I think just the fact they can win a tournament, celebrate together and enjoy it a little bit, it’s good for the soul. As young people they need it. You got to have some reward.”

Part of the fun was playing two games in as many days last week in the tournament in Niceville, Florida, a preview of the American Athletic Conference Tournament in March.

“Being able to concentrate and play two games in a short period of time is really good practice for every team for the postseason,” Cronin said.

 

Look at Arkansas Pine Bluff

 The Golden Lions enter tonight’s game with a 2-4 record but were picked to finish third in the 10-team Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Reigning SWAC Player of the Year, senior guard Martaveous Knight, is averaging 28 points per game with two 40-point performances this season.

“We played against him last year,” Cronin said. “He can score in a lot of ways. Hopefully the way we play defense, it’s a problem for the other team’s coach to draw up plays for his best player cause you got to deal with what we’re doing. So, you really can’t dictate who you’re going to get the ball and where you’re going to get it to him.”

Senior guard/forward Charles Jackson comes in averaging 12.3 points per game and on the heels of consecutive 20-point games last week.

Jackson was also selected as a member of the SWAC First Team in the preseason.

 

Jarron Cumberland was star in Emerald Coast Classic

 Cumberland was named the tournament’s most valuable player following a 25-point performance against Ole Miss in the championship game.

Thirteen of those points came from the free-throw line, which followed a performance against George Mason where he filled the stat sheet with 11 points, six rebounds, three steals and two blocks.

Cronin said that he’s dealing with a calf strain but that he kept trying to sneak back into the game to try and get more free throws.

 

Not looking too far ahead with first true road game Saturday

 While the focus will be on the game tonight, it can’t be helped but to look ahead to the fact that Saturday will be the Bearcats first true road game of the season at University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) Runnin’ Rebels.

“I think it’s just practice for us to make sure that we stay focused on getting better,” Cronin said. “There’s areas where we need to improve, and that’s what we need to be focused on. If you’re a team that loses focus, you’re going to be a .500 ball club.”

One area where the Bearcats are really strong is their assist-to-turnover ratio, led by senior guard Justin Jenifer’s 9.5-to-1.

“Taking care of the ball [has been the key to start my senior season]” Jenifer said. “Being confident, making sure I make the smart play, making sure I make the right play every trip down the court.”

Jenifer understands the importance of every game and not overlooking any of them.

“You always got to come into a game being ready for that game,” Jenifer said. “You can’t worry about the next game, so next game we got to be ready for, we got to be locked in for because you never know what can happen on game night, so we can’t have no slip-ups.”

 

Tomorrow’s game will get underway at 7 p.m. and will be televised on FOX Sports Ohio and ESPN3.

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