A heated series that will forever be marred by last season's ugly brawl will try to get some distance from that unfortunate incident, as crosstown rivals Xavier and Cincinnati square off on Wednesday night at U.S. Bank Arena in what is now being called the Skyline Chili Crosstown Classic.
Xavier comes into this game with a solid 7-2 overall record. The team has been idle since Dec. 9, when the Musketeers knocked off Kent State, 62-55. It is the fourth win in the last five games for Chris Mack's squad.
Mick Cronin's Bearcats are one of the few teams in the nation without a loss. Now ranked 11th in the nation, Cincinnati moved to 10-0 on the season with a 72-56 win in Charleston against Marshall this past weekend.
This marks the 80th all-time meeting in this series, with Cincinnati holding a 48-31 advantage. This is the first matchup between these two teams at U.S. Bank Arena since 1987. Last year's Xavier victory (76-53) was the fourth in the last five meetings for the Musketeers, but will be remembered for a bench- clearing brawl that resulted in ejections and subsequent suspensions for both squads.
Xavier was without second-leading scorer Justin Martin (concussion), but still knocked off Kent State last time out to get back in the win column. The Musketeers held the Golden Flashes to just .323 shooting and used a 12-0 run in the second half to take control. Freshman Semaj Christon led the way with 18 points. Brad Redford added 14 points, with 11 of those coming in the second half. Dee Davis rounded out the top scorers for Xavier with 10 points.
The Musketeers are averaging a modest 71.0 ppg, but have been efficient shooting the basketball, converting just under 50 percent from the floor (.499) overall. Christon has made an instant impact, shooting .517 from the field and leading the team in scoring (15.8 ppg) and assists (5.4 apg). Davis can also score (11.9 ppg) and distribute (3.9 apg). Martin (12.4 ppg) and Travis Taylor (10.1 ppg) contribute as well. Martin however, remains questionable for this contest.
Cincinnati has flourished at both ends of the floor this season, with the result being a gaudy +24.1 scoring margin. The team has also dominated the boards, leading the nation in rebounding (46.1 rpg) and ranking seventh in rebounding margin (+11.5). Junior guard Sean Kilpatrick has proved to be lethal offensively (19.3 ppg), while also making an impact on the glass (6.1 rpg). Senior guard Cashmere Wright can also fill up the basket (14.9 ppg). A potent guard trio is completed by senior JaQuon Parker (10.7 ppg).
Kilpatrick had his worst game of the season, converting just 5-of-15 shots from the floor, but still posted 13 points (a season-low) in a 16-point victory over the Thundering Herd. Wright led the way offensively for Cincinnati with 14 points. The Bearcats compensated for a less-than-stellar shooting performance, but holding Marshall under 40 percent shooting (.395), outrebounding the Herd 40-31 and forcing 20 turnovers.