Cincinnati (7-1) vs. Xavier (7-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 14, 8 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: U.S. Bank Arena (17,556) -- Cincinnati, Ohio. Television: FS1. Home Record: Cincinnati 7-0, Xavier 7-0. Away Record: Cincinnati 0-1, Xavier 0-0. Neutral Record: Cincinnati 0-0, Xavier 0-3. Conference Record: Cincinnati 0-0, Xavier 0-0. Series Record: Cincinnati leads, 49-31.
GAME NOTES: A heated, cross-town rivalry will be renewed on Saturday as the Cincinnati Bearcats meet up with the Xavier Musketeers in a non-conference showdown at US Bank Arena.
A bench-clearing altercation that resulted in several ejections illustrated just how heated this rivalry can get when they met in 2011. Last year's matchup was a more subdued affair with Cincinnati rolling to a 60-45 victory. It was the second win in the last four matchups for the Bearcats, who own the all-time series lead, 49-31.
Cincinnati will be out for a bounce-back win on Saturday as it suffered its first loss of the season in its first true road test at New Mexico (63-54) last time out. Prior to the setback, the Bearcats had rolled off seven straight wins, all at home, to begin the campaign.
Back-to-back close contests have gone in Xavier's favor during its last two bouts. The Musketeers outlasted Evansville, 63-60, on Tuesday after pulling out an 85-73 overtime victory over Bowling Green. The two wins come on the heels of an 0-3 weekend for Xavier at the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Although New Mexico prevailed, the Bearcats did not roll over in the contest. Cincinnati ended the first half on an 8-0 run to pull within striking distance (27-20). The momentum carried over as the Bearcats were within single digits for the majority of the second half. However, eventually the team's paltry 29.5 percent shooting effort pushed the Bearcats away from victory.
The Bearcats can normally overcome poor shooting nights thanks to their work on the defensive end. Cincinnati ranks among the top 10 teams in the country in points allowed (57.3 ppg). The Bearcats also hold foes to just 38.5 percent shooting. Leading the way on the offensive end is Sean Kilpatrick. The 6- foot-4 guard leads the team in scoring (19.6 ppg) and assists (3.1 pg). Kilpatrick has done a good job of hitting his shots efficiently this season (.490) but that changed against New Mexico, when he hit just 5-of-18 shots. Justin Jackson (10.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 3.2 bpg) and Titus Rubles (10.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg) are the other double-figure scoring threats, with Jackson also putting in great work protecting the rim.
Thanks to 17 Evansville turnovers, the Musketeers were able to sneak by the Purple Aces. Xavier connected on only 36.2 percent of its shots from the floor but thanks to all the miscues by its foes and a 16-10 scoring advantage from the free-throw line it posed its seventh win of the year.
The Musketeers have not been as dominant defensively as the Bearcats, but they have still been solid. Xavier is allowing only 65.2 points per game, while limiting foes to just 40.7 percent shooting. On the other end the Musketeers are putting up just under 75 points per game, knocking down 47.7 percent from the field. Semaj Christon (16.2 ppg, 4 apg) is Xavier's answer to Kilpatrick. Christon finished with a team-high 19 points against Evansville for his third straight game with more than 15 points. However, Christon only hit 3-of-14 shots from the floor in the game, relying on 13 points from the free-throw line. Matt Stainbrook (10 ppg, 8.3 rpg) had 10 points and 15 rebounds against Evansville for his second double-double of the year.
Despite the emotions of this rivalry the last few results have not been all that competitive. These two teams are more evenly matched this time around but the athletic ability of Rubles and Jackson on the interior will be the difference against Stainbrook and a less explosive Xavier frontcourt.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cincinnati 68, Xavier 60
12/14 10:42:58 ET