Historically, Cincinnati has had the better basketball program in its city, dominating the Crosstown Shootout with rival Xavier for long stretches.
But now that the 10th-ranked Musketeers have leapfrogged the Bearcats into the national spotlight, they’re looking to prove they’ve also taken control of the Queen City.
It won’t be an easy task on Cincinnati’s campus Saturday, when Xavier will look to avoid a third straight road loss to the Bearcats and move to 9-0 for just the second time in school history.
Cincinnati’s impressive history includes a stretch of 14 straight NCAA tournament appearances under former coach Bob Huggins, a pair of national championships in the 1960s. The Bearcats’ success has carried over into the annual Crosstown Shootout, where they hold a 47-28 edge over Xavier all-time.
But while Cincinnati (6-1) has struggled transitioning to the Big East and is coming off back-to-back losing seasons under coach Mick Cronin, Xavier came within a game of the Final Four last season.
The Musketeers (8-0) have picked up where they left off, leaving them two wins shy of their school-record 10-0 start, set in 1996-97. They’ve also won eight of their last 12 games against Cincinnati, though they’ve dropped the last two at Fifth Third Arena.
“Whatever the sport, when it’s a rivalry, you should be ready,” Xavier senior C.J. Anderson said. “We’re ready and we’re just looking forward to the game.”
Xavier comes in with plenty of momentum after beating Ohio 78-56 on Wednesday.
Junior forward Derrick Brown has had problems at times this season with a sprained ankle, but he had 18 points on 7-of-7 shooting against the Bobcats, and added five assists.
“Today was the first time I felt like my old self,” Brown said. “My ankle, that’s in the past.”
Anderson led the Musketeers with a season-high 22 points and seven rebounds, while reserve freshman point guard Terrell Holloway returned after a two-game absence due to a stress fracture in his left foot.
Holloway played only 15 minutes and had two points and three assists, but he added a new dimension to the team’s offense and helped spark an 18-2 Xavier run at the end of the first half that all but put away the game.
“We’re just a different team when you add Terrell Holloway to the group we have,” Musketeers coach Sean Miller said. “I thought he looked really good considering where he came from.”
Xavier may need him against a well-rested Bearcats team that hasn’t played since beating Alabama-Birmingham 87-80 last Saturday. Cincinnati’s 6-1 start is its best since 2004-05, when it opened 11-0 en route to its most recent NCAA tournament appearance.
Against UAB, Mike Williams had 17 points and Deonta Vaughn added 16 off the bench.
Vaughn, a junior, didn’t start for the first time since his freshman season — something Cronin attributed to how he practiced last week. While Vaughn still leads Cincinnati with 13.7 points per game, that average is more than three points lower than his 17.3 from last season.
The guard had shot 10-of-37 from the field—including 7-of-23 from 3-point range—in his previous two games, but he more selective on Saturday, going 4-of-8 from the floor and 1-of-2 from long range.
As a freshman, he had 24 points in the Bearcats’ 67-57 home win over Xavier exactly two years ago Saturday. The Musketeers returned the favor last Dec. 12 with a 64-59 win, becoming the fifth straight home team to win in the series.
Xavier has won all five of its games against Cincinnati when the Musketeers have been in the Top 25 at the time.