By JEFF MEZYDLO
(AP) -- Cincinnati has had more than enough time to move on from another close conference defeat.
Following an eight-day layoff, the No. 24 Bearcats look to get back on track and sweep the season series with visiting Rutgers in Wednesday night's Big East matchup.
Cincinnati (16-4, 4-3) was riding a three-game winning streak and led by seven with a little more than 5 minutes left before falling 57-55 at then-No. 3 Syracuse on Jan. 21. Though the Bearcats shot 32.7 percent, they were in position to win until Syracuse's C.J. Fair was credited with a tipped, go-ahead bucket with 19.4 seconds left.
The Bearcats' three league losses have come by a combined nine points.
"At the end of the day, we've got to make sure it makes us better. That's the key," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. "You've got to make sure it makes you better and makes you tougher."
The down time likely provided the Bearcats with a good opportunity to address their recent shooting problems. Cincinnati ranks 14th in the Big East at 39.7 percent during league play, and has shot 33.6 in the last two contests after making a season-high 59.5 percent in a win at DePaul.
Cincinnati, however, is fifth in the conference defensively in league action, allowing 62.0 points per game.
The layoff also gave senior guard Cashmere Wright a chance to further heal a sprained knee that forced him to miss a 71-69 overtime win over No. 25 Marquette on Jan. 19 that snapped a three-game home skid. Wright, who averages 14.5 points, went 2 of 13 from the field to match a season low with five points and missed a straight-on shot with 2.9 seconds left against the Orange.
Wright totaled 12 points in the three previous games in which he saw extended action against Rutgers before scoring 23 - albeit on 6 of 17 shooting - without a turnover in Cincinnati's 68-58 road win on Jan. 12. Though both teams shot 37.7 percent, the Bearcats were the better defensive team early, holding Rutgers to 4-of-19 shooting in the first half.
Sean Kilpatrick (team-high 18.4 points per game) was held to 10 in that contest but has averaged 25.0 and gone 14 of 33 (42.4 percent) from 3-point range in the three games that have followed.
Cincinnati has won six of seven versus Rutgers (12-7, 3-5), including the last two meetings at home by a combined 28 points.
The Scarlet Knights followed this month's loss to Cincinnati with a 70-67 home win over South Florida on Jan. 17, but have since dropped three in a row. Jerome Seagears scored a career-high 21 and Eli Carter added 13 on Sunday at Connecticut, but Rutgers was held to 39.3 percent shooting in a 66-54 loss.
"We can't have one or two players (being productive)," said coach Mike Rice, whose team ranks 13th with 60.8 points per game in Big East play. "We need four or five players. Our balance has gone out the window because guys are too inconsistent."
Carter averages a team-high 15.4 points but was held to six on 1-of-11 shooting against the Bearcats. Guard Myles Mack was the only Scarlet Knight to score in double figures with 15 in that meeting.
Updated January 29, 2013