CINCINNATI (AP) — Point guard Cashmere Wright will be limited by a sprained knee – if he plays at all – when Cincinnati hosts No. 25 Marquette on Saturday, trying to end a three-game losing streak at home.
The senior sprained his right knee early in the second half of a 75-70 win at DePaul on Tuesday night and had to be helped off the court. Coach Mick Cronin said on Thursday that Wright’s status for the game is uncertain.
“Obviously there’s minor adjustments we’ll make that are some pluses, some minuses,” Cronin said. “We probably become a bigger, more physical team when he’s out of the lineup. We played a lot of quality minutes without him (at DePaul). We did a lot of good things without him on the floor.”
Cincinnati (15-3, 3-2 Big East) is going to have to do that again against Marquette (13-3, 4-0), which is one of three teams left with perfect Big East records. The Bearcats have leaned on Wright heavily the last few weeks. He has scored at least 20 points in three of the last four games, and had 20 points and seven assists when he got hurt with more than 15 minutes left in the game on Tuesday night.
Wright averages 15.1 points per game, second to Sean Kilpatrick’s 17.3 points per game. Kilpatrick has been in a shooting slump lately, scoring 7, 15, 10 and 18 points the last four games. He’s only 12 of 40 from behind the 3-point arc in the last six games, three of which the Bearcats have lost.
If Wright misses the game, the Bearcats will have guard JaQuon Parker and sophomore point guard Ge’Lawn Guyn handle the ball more often.
“With Ge’Lawn and Parker that can run the point – and sometimes me – we should be OK,” Kilpatrick said. “But with him being on the floor, it makes it a lot easier for everybody else. He’s used to that position. We do need him.”
The game has a little extra significance for Cincinnati, which opened the season by winning its first 12 games and was No. 8 in late December, its highest ranking in nine years. A 55-54 loss to New Mexico started a stretch of three straight home losses – the Bearcats also dropped games against St. John’s and Notre Dame – that knocked them out of the Top 25.
Cincinnati received the 26th-most points in this week’s AP poll. Marquette moved into the Top 25 for the first time this season and beat Seton Hall 69-62 on Wednesday night.
The Bearcats haven’t lost on the road or at a neutral site. They’re only 8-3 at home, a surprising statistic.
“The biggest mistake teams make is thinking we’re at home, we’re going to win,” Cronin said. “We’ve made the adjustment in the last few games in taking each game separately.
“So that’s all we’re trying to focus on. If you don’t have that focus at home, it’s probably because you’re relaxing mentally.”
The Bearcats will play two of the three teams with perfect league records in the next few days. After hosting Marquette on Saturday night, they play at No. 6 Syracuse (16-1, 4-0) on Monday afternoon.
Cincinnati doesn’t play No. 1 Louisville (16-1, 4-0) until March 4. The games against Marquette and Syracuse will give them an idea of how they match up against some of the conference’s best at the moment. The Bearcats are alone in fourth place in the league.
“We know that these are (two of) the top teams in the league right now, playing at an extremely high level,” Kilpatrick said. “That’s something we’ve got to keep fighting for. If we continue to play the way we have been doing, we should be all right.”