Road Trip Round-up & Previewing the opponent: Louisville Cardinals

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The Bearcats are looking to bounce back from consecutive losses tonight when they host the Louisville Cardinals in their first BIG EAST contest of the season.

Currently at 6-2, the Bearcats lost consecutively for the first time this season on the road, in the cross town shootout at Xavier and in Huntington, W.Va. against Marshall. UC held leads is both of those games before surrendering to the opposition in the last five minutes.

This was the first time in head coach Jamelle Elliott's tenure that the Bearcats played Xavier in the hostile environment of the Cintas Center. The previous two meetings were played at neutral settings where the sixth man, which is the crowd, was not as much as a factor. UC had the lead for most of the game against the Musketeers, until the last five minutes turned into a nightmare for the Bearcats. Xavier shot 60 percent in the second half and out rebounded the Bearcats 39-26 leading them to victory. The Musketeers had four players in double figures.

"The last five minutes we allowed their best player to really get off and score six or eight straight points in the lane," Elliott said. "We had a couple lapses mentally, breaking down, boxing out, so we lost the game in the last five minutes."

Cincinnati's trip to Marshall had a similar theme. Up 11 points at one point in the game, the Bearcats fell to the half court pressure that Marshall displayed the final five minutes of the game. Marshall's Jasmine Shaw scored 11 points in just three minutes and led the Thundering Herd with 13 points for the game. The Bearcats had noticeable leads of 19-9 and 29-20 before falling to Herd, 55-47.

"They made a run, both teams, Xavier and Marshall when we didn't have time to capitalize," Elliott said. "Before we could get through it the game was over."

UC hopes to use the experiences from the their losses by overcoming leads they may see the 14th ranked Cardinals get out to on this evening. The first BIG EAST test of the season may be one of the toughest the Bearcats will see this season. Elliott spoke to the athleticism  and size of the Cardinals, which she believes will give her team the most trouble tonight. Starting point guard Bjonee Reaves remembers the team's match-up with UL last season and recalls not being able to advance the ball against Louisville's athletic press.

"Louisville is going to be a team that we haven't seen anything close to them this year," Elliott said. "They're long, they're athletic and one through five positions. Their point guard is over six feet tall, their wings are over six feet tall and then they have athletic post players, so we have not played an athletic team similar to Louisville. This is by far going to be the most pressure we see in the eight games we have played so far this year."

Cincinnati has been focusing on breaking the pressure they will see from UL in practice this week. Elliott knows the only way her team has a chance to pull of the upset is if they limit turnovers by protecting the ball and make good decisions for a full 40 minutes. UC obviously must take advantage of the opportunities they see on the offensive end and capitalize on all of them to stay in the game. On the defensive side of the ball, Elliott has stressed the importance of keeping the Cardinals in front of them and boxing out limiting UL's second chance points.

"The most you can do is watch a lot of tape, realize what their tendencies are and try to simulate them as much as you can in practice in hopes that it will help us when the game starts," Elliott said.

"It seems like teams are going to try and pressure us and we need to be more prepared, more organized and be able to handle the pressure," Reaves said.

If the Bearcats want to pull the upset Elliott knows that her team needs to out rebound the Cardinals and hold them under their average points per game. UC must be aggressive and get to the free throw line to limit Louisville's scoring runs and transition buckets.

Louisville is the Bearcats' longest rival, playing since 1973,and is their local partner in the BIG EAST. UC is looking to avenge last seasons loss to the Cardinals and start 1-0 in conference play for the first time in Elliott's tenure. If they do so they will need to limit UL's top scorer, Monique Reid, a senior forward that has been averaging 14.6 ppg and a team-best 5.6 rpg.

Tonight's tip is set for 7:00 p.m. from Fifth Third Arena.

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