No. 19 Cincinnati looks to end skid vs. rival Xavier (Jan 26, 2017)

BY AP • January 25, 2017

CINCINNATI -- The annual meeting between crosstown rivals Xavier and Cincinnati is among the nation's best college basketball rivalries.

In recent years, however, it's been rather one-sided.

No. 19 Cincinnati leads the overall series 49-34, but No. 24 Xavier has won the past three meetings, seven of nine, and 14 of 20.

This year's 'Crosstown Shootout' is set for Thursday night at Fifth Third Arena, located barely four miles from Xavier's campus.

The Bearcats take some added incentive into this year's matchup.

Cincinnati's seniors don't want to end their careers as the first class to fail to defeat Xavier at least once.

"We don't like to keep losing to the same team," Bearcats senior guard Kevin Johnson said.

The Bearcats have reason to believe this year will be different.

Cincinnati arguably has its best squad in head coach Mick Cronin's 11 seasons at the helm. Cronin, who is 3-7 in his career against the Musketeers, also is eager for a win over Xavier, although he's done his best to downplay the significance this week.

"This is a big part of being the coach at Cincinnati, like it or not," Cronin said. "In a game like this, the battle for every loose ball may be a little more heated. You better be prepared for that."

For decades, the rivalry was dominated by Cincinnati. The Bearcats' great teams of the '50s, '60s, and '70s ruled over Xavier on an annual basis winning as many as 12 straight years. The Musketeers' emergence began in the early 80s when the rivalry became a more balanced affair.

"It's not the David and Goliath game it used to be," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "It says a lot about both programs that we're both in the top 25. It's a big-time quality win for whoever wins."

These days, both programs stand among the nation's elite. Cincinnati is among just eight schools to reach the past six NCAA Tournaments. Xavier is one of only nine schools to reach 10 of the past 11 Big Dances.

Thursday night's game is just the third in which both teams are ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. And, it comes at a time when both the Bearcats and Musketeers are looking to strengthen their NCAA Tournament resumes and seed position.

Cincinnati (17-2, 7-0 American) is led by sophomore guard Jacob Evans, who leads the team with 14.2 points per game and senior guard Troy Caupain, who averages 10.8 points and a team-leading 4.5 assists.

One advantage for the Bearcats Thursday night might be the inside play of Gary Clark and Kyle Washington.

In a shift from year's past, Xavier might have an edge in rebounding while Cincinnati seems to have more shooting depth.

Cincinnati has won 19 straight games at Fifth Third Arena, tied for the longest home-court winning streak under Cronin. The Bearcats are 7-5 versus Xavier in that building.

The Musketeers (14-5, 4-3 Big East) are battle-tested in the formidable Big East Conference but have scuffled of late against some hefty competition.

Xavier, which recently lost three straight games to Villanova, Butler and Creighton, is led by the dynamic guard tandem of Edmond Sumner and Trevon Bluiett, who leads XU in scoring at 17.2 points per game.

The animosity and vitriol between the two schools which resulted in an ugly brawl in 2011 has cooled in recent years. There isn't as much familiarity amongst the players as in year's past when it was more common for them to compete in summer leagues and interact off the court.

Over the past 80 years, this game has produced plenty of signature moments and unexpected results, including a pair of Xavier victories over No.-1 ranked Bearcats teams. "There have been a lot of unsung heroes in this game," said Cronin.

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