Bearcats battle Musketeers in Queen City showdown

The Crosstown Shootout takes place today, as ranked Xavier Musketeers.

Cincinnati is 5-2 on the young season, and the team is coming off its first true road game as it topped SEC foe Georgia on December 2, 57-51. The Bearcats, who will kick off Big East Conference play at Pittsburgh on New Year's Day, will play at Wright State next Wednesday to wrap up a three-game road trip. UC has won its last five road games, dating back to last season, and its eight road wins from 2010-11 were the most of any team in the Big East. Cincinnati has held 11 of its last 12 non-conference opponents under 60 points, and the Bearcats will be looking to take out a top-10 foe for the first time since besting No. 8 Louisville, 71-66, on January 4, 1990.

Xavier is off to its best start under third-year head coach Chris Mack and at 7-0, the Musketeers are enjoying their second-best start in the last 14 years -- they began the 2008-09 season at 9-0 on the way to a 27-8 record and trip to the Sweet 16. XU is coming off a 73-61 win at Butler, giving the team double-digit wins in five games this season. Having claimed the No. 8 spot in this week's AP Poll, the Musketeers are ranked in the top-10 for the first time since the 2008-09 season. Their highest-ever ranking was seventh, reached twice (1997, 2008).

Cincinnati owns a 48-30 lead in the all-time series, but Xavier has won three of the last four, six of the last nine, and 10 of the last 15 meetings overall.

Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin preaches defense, and his team has responded by limiting the opposition to a paltry 52.7 ppg on typical shooting outputs of .374 overall and .278 from three-point range. The scoring yield ranks the Bearcats sixth nationally, and they check in at 23rd in blocked shots (5.9 per game). It's a good thing UC plays as well as it does defensively, because the team puts up a lackluster 63.6 ppg at the other end, hitting its field goals 43.7 percent of the time and its three-pointers at a 38.2 percent clip. A +4.7 rebounding margin helps matters, although that stat wasn't relative in the recent win at Georgia, as the teams battled to a 33-33 standstill on the glass. Neither team shot well, with the Bearcats connecting on just 38.8 percent of its total shots, although a 9-of-20 effort from beyond the arc was certainly beneficial, and the Bulldogs managing just 36.2 percent overall showing. They hit just 3-of-14 three-point tries. Sean Kilpatrick led Cincinnati with 22 points, and Dion Dixon tallied 19, the tandem combining to drop eight treys. Kilpatrick (15.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg) heads a list of three UC players averaging double figures in scoring this season, as Dixon (13.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg) and Yancy Gates (12.9 ppg, 9.1 rpg) have been productive players as well.

While not quite as stingy when it comes to its defensive prowess, Xavier does a nice job of limiting easy buckets to the opposition, permitting just 62.3 ppg on shooting percentages of .359 overall and .255 beyond the arc. Add a +6.6 rebounding margin and it's clear the Musketeers can come up with timely stops when they need them. The team currently boasts a pair of double-digit scorers in veteran guards Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons, the duo combining for 34.8 of XU's 73.9 ppg. As a collective unit, the Musketeers are shooting 46.3 from the floor, and they are draining nearly 40 percent (.398) of their long- range bombs. Holloway and Lyons were once again at the forefront of the Xavier attack in the recent win over Butler, netting 16 points apiece, while combining for nine rebounds and six assists. Dezmine Wells got into the act as well with his 13 points, and coach Mack's club won the game despite shooting just 38.6 percent from the field, and converting only two of its 12 three- point attempts. Butler committed 16 turnovers, missed 19 of its 21 long-range tries and shot just 30.6 percent from the field overall.