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UC ready to face UConn
CINCINNATI (TAYLOR BECHTOLD/STATS Writer/AP) -- With one of the nation's longest winning streaks, Cincinnati has climbed to heights it hasn't reached in a decade.
Now a visit from Connecticut stands in its way after the Huskies returned to the rankings for the first time in more than a month.
The seventh-ranked Bearcats look to remain unbeaten in the AAC with their 15th straight victory while dealing 22nd-ranked UConn only its second loss in eight games Thursday night.
Following a 50-45 victory over South Florida on Sunday, Cincinnati (21-2, 10-0) moved up six spots to lock up the program's highest ranking since 2003-04.
The Bearcats have gone on the nation's sixth-longest run since a 64-47 loss to crosstown rival Xavier on Dec. 14. They've also won 17 straight home games by an average of 18.6 points dating to last season.
Sean Kilpatrick overcame an illness Sunday to score 18 despite missing 11 of 16 shots, while Justin Jackson added 15 points as Cincinnati extended its best start in 12 years.
''We're not done yet,'' Jackson said. ''We want to be on the big stage come March. That's our focus: When we come to March to have a good seed and do what we need to do.''
While Jackson has averaged 11.3 points and 7.0 rebounds, Kilpatrick leads the league with 19.4 points per game. The senior forward scored 28 in a 69-66 win at then-No. 12 Louisville last Thursday that put the Bearcats in control atop the AAC.
Kilpatrick, who has averaged 25.0 points over his last three games, moved into third place on Cincinnati's career scoring list behind only Oscar Robertson and Steve Logan.
''The guy's going to be - knock on wood - the second guy in the history of this program to score over 2,000 points,'' coach Mick Cronin said. ''He's maybe the most underrated great player who has ever played here."
Kilpatrick had a combined 38 points against the Huskies last season as both teams won on their home court while still in the Big East. The Bearcats lost 73-66 in overtime at UConn on Feb. 21 before pulling out a 61-56 home win March 2.
Ryan Boatright, who led the Huskies with 22 points in Cincinnati, scored 15 in an 80-43 rout over Houston last Thursday.
Shabazz Napier finished with a team-high 19 points as UConn (17-4, 5-3) returned to the Top 25 for the first time since Jan. 4 with its sixth win in seven games following an 0-2 start in AAC play.
"Rebounding, defense - everything is trending in the right way," coach Kevin Ollie said. "Now, we've got to keep it up."
Napier, averaging a team-high 17.9 points, has passed Jeff Adrien into 14th place on the school's all-time scoring list after scoring 25.5 per game over his last four.
The senior guard has totaled 54 points while hitting 9 of 17 from 3-point range in his last two meetings with the Bearcats, though he sat out the loss in March due to a foot injury.
The Huskies are playing well offensively heading into this matchup, scoring 80.5 per game over their last six. They could have a difficult time continuing that production against a Cincinnati team that has allowed a league-low 56.7 points per game.
The Bearcats are hoping to get freshman forward Jermaine Lawrence back after he missed the last eight games with an injured toe. With just nine scholarship players available, Cincinnati's bench contributed only two points Sunday.