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Cincinnati hopes to beat No. 18 Mississippi State again

No. 18 Mississippi State will try to show improvement as a ranked team while Cincinnati is trying to show it belongs in the AP Top 25.

They meet Saturday at Mississippi State.

Cincinnati has yet to crack the top 25 this season despite a 9-1 record. Mississippi State is 8-1 coming off an impressive 82-71 win last week over Clemson on a neutral court in Newark, N.J.

The Bulldogs, who shot 19 of 30 from 3-point range in the win over Clemson, feature five starters averaging in double figures.

"Their stats from the last five games are making me rethink the game schedule," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. "It's unbelievable. Their whole team is shooting 43 percent (from beyond the arc) in their last five (games). We haven't seen that since Notre Dame in the Big East."

Mississippi State guard Lamar Peters went 8 for 11 from 3-point range against Clemson. The team's 19 made field goals from that range against Clemson were also a school record.

"What I'm really proud of and excited for Lamar is what great leadership he's showing," Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said. "He's the voice out there. He's the voice in the locker room. He has that swag and ability to talk, and those guys all believe in him."

Cronin mentioned that Peters and the Bulldogs "present a lot of problems for us."

"They've got a lot of guys, Lamar Peters is just one of them," Cronin said. "Both the Weatherspoons (Quinndary and Nick), Aric Holman's a tremendous shooter (he's) probably the best shooting big man in the country. They'll put a lot of pressure on our defense. They've got guys that do everything, shoot threes, drive to the basket. They really play with two point guards at all times. They really present a lot of problems for us."

Cincinnati defeated Mississippi State 65-50 last year. Peters went 0 for 11 in that game, including 0 for 7 on 3-pointers.

Cincinnati senior guard Justin Jenifer had seven points and nine assists in the 62-47 win over Xavier last week. He leads the Bearcats in 3-point percentage at 45.8. Jenifer leads the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio with 39 assists and only five turnovers while averaging 23.6 minutes a game.

"Since I've been here Coach has instilled that taking care of the ball is the biggest key for me being on the floor," Jenifer said. "A lot of the long nights and early mornings we've had in the summertime pays off."

While Cincinnati won handily last year, the Bearcats are missing players that produced 49 of their 65 points as Jacob Evans III had 24, Kyle Washington 16 and Gary Clark added 9 points and plus 13 rebounds. That's two NBA players and another who is playing professionally overseas.

Peters was picked up co-SEC Player of the Week honors on Monday for his performances against McNeese State and Clemson. He averaged 27.5 points, five assists and eight 3-pointers made per game in those games.

Updated December 14, 2018

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