The drought is over.
Barring something unforeseen happening, which is entirely possible in today's unpredictable COVID-19 world, the University of Cincinnati men's basketball team will play its first game in 25 days on Thursday night at Temple.
"This season is all about not only a season of sacrifice, but also a season of passion for what you do," Cincinnati Head Coach John Brannen said on Wednesday. "Our young men have been – as well as our coaching staff – really excited about getting the opportunity to play again, and it looks like we're going to have that opportunity."
The Bearcats (3-7, 1-4 American Athletic Conference) enter the month of February having played only 10 games for the first time since 1944-45.
After having the past six games postponed and not being able to practice for most of that stretch due to COVID-19 issues both within and outside of his program, Brannen said his team was able to have a full five-on-five practice on Tuesday and anticipated being able to have another on Wednesday.
Brannen said that not everyone on his roster will be available against the Owls. The second-year UC coach said he expects to have some of the team's walk-ons log quality minutes.
"One of our GAs (graduate assistant coaches), I put him on the floor as a coach this week due to some coaches being out," Brannen said. "Mainly in part because he can play five-on-five and get up and down the court with us. So we were able to go five-on-five. That probably gives you an idea (of player availability of late)."
Brannen said he has no idea how many more games his team, which has lost five of its past six, will be able to play this season. His only focus is Thursday.
"COVID will decide that, we won't," he said. "... Right now, we're just focusing on the challenge we have ahead of us. We have physical, mental and emotional challenges. Our goal right now is to go and compete against Temple. That's where our focus is at."
Tipoff: 7 p.m. on Thursday in Philadelphia.
TV/Radio: ESPN2/WLW-AM (700)
Series info: This is the 34th meeting between Cincinnati and Temple, with UC owning a 24-9 advantage in the series. The Bearcats are 8-4 all-time in Philadelphia. Cincinnati won both of its meetings against the Owls last season, including an 89-82 victory on Jan. 22, 2020, at Temple.
Cincinnati (3-7, 1-4 AAC)
Coach: John Brannen, second season (23-17)
Offense: 69.7 ppg
Defense: 72.3 ppg
Player (Position, Height, Key Stat)
David DeJulius (G, 6’, 5.3 apg)
Mika Adams-Woods (G, 6’3”, 7.3 ppg)
Keith Williams (G, 6’5”, 15 ppg)
Jeremiah Davenport (G, 6'7", 10.1 ppg)
Tari Eason (F, 6’8”, 1.2 bpg)
Temple (4-5, 3-5 AAC)
Coach: Aaron McKie, second season (18-22)
Offense: 64.3 ppg
Defense: 69.1 ppg
Player (Position, Height, Key Stat)
Jeremiah Williams (G, 6’5", 7.6 ppg)
Damian Dunn (G, 6'5", 14.1 ppg)
De'Vondre Perry (F, 6’7", 8.3 ppg)
J.P. Moorman II (F, 6’7", 7.7 ppg)
Jake Forrester (F, 6’9", 6.7 rpg)
PLAYERS TO WATCH
The Cincinnati sophomore guard was named to the AAC Weekly Honor Roll on Jan. 11 after averaging 16 points on 64.7% (11-of-17) shooting. He shot 71.4% (5 of 7) from 3-point range. The 6-foot-5, 195-pound Harvey entered the week leading all AAC players in shooting from behind the 3-point line in league play – 64.3% (9 of 14).
The 6-foot-5, 175-pound guard has been dangerous of late off the Temple bench. Battle recorded his first career double-double in a win over Tulsa on Jan. 26. The sophomore finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds (both career-highs). For the week, Battle averaged 15.5 points and 5.5 rebounds.
KEY TO THE GAME
Play to the standard
Basketball is a rhythm sport, and Cincinnati will no doubt be out of rhythm on Thursday after having been away from the court for so long. The best Brannen can hope for is that his team plays to the standard he has set.
"I don't expect to be in great rhythm, but I do expect our guys to play hard and compete," he said.
DeJulius will need to continue to lead offensively and take care of the ball. The junior Michigan transfer entered the week ranked second in the AAC in assists (5.3 per game) and third in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.9-to-1). The 6-foot, 195-pound guard nearly recorded a double-double in a win at SMU on Jan. 7, grabbing a career-high nine rebounds and recording a career-high 12 assists.
KenPom.com: Cincinnati (83); Temple (145).
RPI: Cincinnati (152); Temple (88).