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It has been a decade since Cincinnati claimed a conference championship, but that drought may come to an end Saturday afternoon as it visits reeling Rutgers. The Bearcats earned a pivotal 97-84 victory over Memphis on Thursday night and can secure at least a share of the American Athletic Conference title with a victory Saturday. Rutgers' difficult season continued Wednesday as it dropped a 69-63 decision to Connecticut.
Guard Sean Kilpatrick led the Bearcats' offensive attack Thursday, erupting for a season-high 34 points to keep Cincinnati's hopes of a conference championship intact. The sensational senior was stellar in the final home game of his collegiate career and looks to lead the Bearcats to their second win over Rutgers this season. Kilpatrick poured in 16 points but shot just 3-for-13 from the field in Cincinnati's 71-51 triumph over the Scarlet Knights back on Jan. 11.
TV: 12 p.m. ET, ESPNews
ABOUT CINCINNATI (25-5, 14-3 AAC): Kilpatrick's career has been impressive in its own right - the native of Yonkers, N.Y. will wind up as the school's second-leading scorer behind Basketball Hall-of-Famer Oscar Robertson. What makes his ascension even more unlikely is that he actually redshirted as a freshman - a development he admitted caught him by surprise. "I looked at (head coach Mick Cronin) and said, 'What?'" Kilpatrick said in a recent CBS Sports feature. "I was shocked. I thought I was working hard enough to try and play that year."
ABOUT RUTGERS (11-19, 5-12): The Scarlet Knights have been in a tailspin over the past three weeks, dropping five of their past six games while struggling to score in the process. Rutgers averages better than 72 points per game on the season but has reached that total just once since mid-February, recording fewer than 66 points in the other five contests. Myles Mack (15.3 points per game) and Kadeem Jack (14.4) lead the offensive assault, with the latter also setting the pace in rebounding (6.7) and blocked shots (1.3).
1. A victory in Saturday's finale would give Cronin his third 26-win season in the last four years.
2. Mack has hit multiple 3-pointers in six consecutive games.
3. Kilpatrick leads the conference in scoring at 20.8 points per game - a full 2.7 points ahead of runner-up Shabazz Napier of Connecticut.
PREDICTION: Cincinnati 80, Rutgers 63