Cincinnati and Alabama are using a similar blueprint for success.
Two of the nation's top backcourt trios square off Saturday as the 17th-ranked Bearcats host the Crimson Tide in the only SEC-Big East Challenge matchup between undefeated teams.Cincinnati, which is looking for its second 7-0 start in three seasons, outscored its first four opponents by an average of 34.5 points before winning last week's Global Sports Classic in Las Vegas with more competitive victories against Iowa State and Oregon.The Bearcats closed in strong fashion for a 77-66 win in last Saturday's championship, dealing the Ducks their first loss of the season."We showed a lot of character," coach Mick Cronin said. "We keep it interesting, that's for sure. We've got veteran guys who can defend, and we got a lot of open shots off (our defensive) effort."A group of three guards -- junior Sean Kilpatrick and seniors Cashmere Wright and JaQuon Parker -- form the crux of the Bearcats' attack. They are averaging a combined 48.0 points, ranking among the nation's top 10 highest-scoring guard trios.Kilpatrick leads the way, averaging 21.0 points and is shooting 41.9 percent from 3-point range, and Wright averages 16.5 points and is hitting 47.5 percent from the perimeter. Parker's averaging 10.5 points and 4.5 rebounds."They've got three guys that are veteran guys that are obviously leading them in scoring and doing a great job rebounding the basketball," Alabama coach Anthony Grant saidThe trio also averages 13.2 rebounds and 5.5 steals per game, leading a defense that is limiting opponents to an average of 32.6 percent shooting -- one of the best marks in the country.Cronin hopes to see his club pick up where it left off in Las Vegas."We've just got to maintain our focus," he said. "We can't have the Las Vegas hangover. We gotta make sure that we come out with the same mentality."The Crimson Tide (6-0) lean heavily on their own backcourt trio of Trevor Releford, Trevor Lacey and Rodney Cooper, who combine to average 47.9 points -- also among the top 10. Though they didn't need Releford -- their leading scorer at 18.6 per game -- for a 75-47 home win over Lamar on Tuesday, as he sat out due to a stomach virus.Cooper, who's second on the team in scoring at 15.8 per game, came off the bench to score a team-high 17, as Alabama held its opponent under 50 for the second time in as many games and third time this season. Lacey finished with seven points, his third straight game in single digits after averaging 19.3 points in the first three."Alabama's got excellent guard play," Cronin said. "Whenever you've got good guards in college basketball you're going to have a good team. They got guys with good ball skills and they can shoot."Alabama, which is seeking a second straight 7-0 start, also has a good defense, limiting opponents to an average of 54.3 points and 38.4 percent shooting.The teams split their two previous meetings, with Cincinnati winning the most recent matchup 77-74 in overtime in the 2000 Puerto Rico Holiday Classic.