Cincinnati-Xavier Preview

Behind Tu Holloway’s clutch efforts, Xavier has overcome a

difficult schedule to post its best start in three seasons.

A matchup with visiting Cincinnati seems likely to provide

another tough challenge.

With last season’s loss to the Bearcats surely fresh in their

minds, the eighth-ranked Musketeers can exact some revenge Saturday

in the Crosstown Shootout.

Holloway scored 10 of his 24 points in overtime of an 82-70

victory over then-No. 20 Vanderbilt on Nov. 28 and had 17 in the

second half of a 66-63 win over Purdue on Saturday. He followed up

those performances with 16 points, seven rebounds and a career-high

six steals during a 73-61 victory at Butler on Wednesday.

“We were just ready to play (Wednesday) and we were on top of

our game,” said Holloway, who went 14 of 16 from the free-throw

line. “When we’re on top of our game, I feel like we can beat

anyone.”

Xavier (7-0), which hasn’t won eight in a row to open the season

since a nine-game run in 2008-09, wasn’t anywhere near its best

during a Jan. 6 matchup with then-No. 24 Cincinnati. The Musketeers

went 1 of 10 from 3-point range and lost 66-46, with Holloway

getting held to five points on 2-of-13 shooting.

While the Bearcats (5-2) were able to shut down Holloway in that

game, coach Mick Cronin knows doing so again won’t be easy.

“I think that’s overrated … last year’s irrelevant,” Cronin

said. “I know he’s a competitor … that’s why he’s on people’s

All-American list. (Guards play) their best at winning time, and

it’s very clear that Holloway’s at his best at winning time.”

Cincinnati holds a 48-30 advantage in the all-time series. The

Musketeers have taken four straight home meetings, although those

wins have come by a total of 13 points with two going past

regulation.

The Bearcats’ run of five straight road wins dating to last

season is the team’s longest such streak since a five-game run Dec.

14-Jan. 26, 2002.

“It seems like we’re playing statement game after statement

game,” Musketeers coach Chris Mack said. “But we embrace that … I

think if you want to be the best, you have to play the best and you

have to challenge yourself.”

Cincinnati trailed by as many as 12 in the first half last

Friday but rallied for a 57-51 win at Georgia. Sean Kilpatrick led

the way with a season-high 22 points while fellow guard Dion Dixon

had 19.

While the Bearcats were held to fewer than 60 points for the

third time this season, they used another stifling defensive effort

to earn the win. Cincinnati, which limited the Bulldogs to 36.2

percent from the field, ranks seventh in the country with 52.7

points allowed per game.

“Cincinnati is a really good, strong team and they fought really

hard and wore us down in the second half,” Georgia coach Mark Fox

told the school’s official website. “They’re an older, stronger,

and more mature team than we are and you really have to give their

defense a lot of credit.”

Xavier has won 43 of 44 at home, including 13 straight by an

average of 14.0 points.

“We’re only as good as our next game,” freshman swingman Dez

Wells said. “Every game, we’re just trying to get better and every

practice we’re trying to get better and work on our weaknesses as a

team. We’re just ready for the next opponent.”

Holloway had 26 points as the Musketeers beat then-No. 19

Cincinnati 83-79 in double overtime Dec. 13, 2009.