Saturday, Dec. 13 - 8 p.m. EST - Fifth Third Arena (13,176) - Cincinnati, Ohio
Xavier comes into the Skyline Chili Crosstown Shootout undefeated (8-0) and ranked No. 10 in the Associated Press and No. 9 in the USA Today Polls, the highest it has been ranked for a Crosstown Shootout since 1997-98 (No. 10 in AP).
The Musketeers have three players with a double- figure scoring average (B.J. Raymond - 13.4 ppg; Derrick Brown - 13.3 ppg; C.J. Anderson - 11.1 ppg) and seven players post six or more points a contest.
XU is knocking off opponents by an average of +11.3 points per game this season, posting 71.5 points per game and holding opponents to 60.2.
The Xavier defense has played a key roll in its success, ranking No. 17 in the nation in field goal percentage defense (.359), one spot ahead of Cincinnati.
The Musketeers have the nation’s 19th-best rebounding margin, besting opponents by an average of 8.9 rebounds per game, coming into the week. Currently, six XU players pull down four or more rebounds a night, led by junior forward Jason Love’s 6.5 rpg.
As a unit, Xavier ranks 51st in the nation in blocked shots per game with 4.9. Freshman center Kenny Frease is tops on the team with 16 blocks (2.0 bpg).
THE SKYLINE CHILI CROSSTOWN SHOOTOUT
The highly contested Cincinnati-Xavier series had an inauspicious beginning when the two schools first met in a game scheduled after the conclusion of the 1927-28 season to dedicate Xavier’s Schmidt Fieldhouse. It was 15 years (1942-43) before they met again.
Following another pause, the schools began playing on an annual basis in 1945-46 and have played consecutively since.
In 1948-49 and 1949-50, XU and UC played each other during the regular season and met again in the season-ending Cincinnati Invitational tournament.
While the tourney was discontinued after 1949-50, the schools played twice a season for the next eight years.
The series was deadlocked at four wins each after the first eight clashes, but Cincinnati won the next three games (March 18, 1950 - March 8, 1951) and has led the series since.
UC held a 12-10 advantage before launching a 12-game win streak (Feb. 13, 1957 - March 3, 1967), and from the mid-1950’s to the late1970’s, the Bearcats captured 22 of 24 clashes.
Cincinnati owns a 47-28 edge in the all-time series and a 6-3 mark in Fifth Third Arena.
The two teams have split the last four meetings in the series, each winning twice on its home floor.
Since the schools went to playing just once a year in 1958-59, UC and XU have played 22 times when one or both of the schools were ranked nationally in the Associated Press standings; UC owns a 13-9 record in those games. UC was ranked No. 1 in four of those games (1999-00; 1996-97; 1962-63; 1959-60).
Mick Cronin won his debut in the Shootout in 2006-07, becoming the first rookie head coach in the last seven to win his first time out.
2008: AN HISTORIC SHOOTOUT
Looking back into the annals of the Crosstown Shootout, this season’s match-up will go down as one of the most historic heading into the game as the two teams have a combined 14-1 record and a .933 winning percentage.
It is the first time in series history since 1958, when the schools went to playing once a year, that the two schools have a combined winning percentage of 90 percent or higher.
The closest winning percentage to this year’s record was .889 in 1992-93 when the schools combined for a record of 24-3 (UC — 12-1; XU — 12-2). That season the No. 6 ranked Bearcats beat Musketeers, 78-67, in the Shoemaker Center.
UC VS. RANKED OPPONENTS
Cincinnati is 112-171 all-time vs. opponents ranked in the Associated Press Top 25, including a 21-17 record in Fifth Third Arena.
The Bearcats are 7-5 vs. teams ranked No. 10 in the polls, including 0-1 vs. Xavier. XU knocked off UC, 88-68, on Dec. 13, 1997.
Last season, head coach Mick Cronin led the Bearcats to a pair of home wins vs. ranked teams, beating No. 19 Villanova, 69-66, and No. 15 Pittsburgh, 62-59. UC is 2-9 vs. ranked opponents under Cronin.
NO. 5 MOVING INTO NO. 5 SLOT
Junior guard Deonta Vaughn needs two 3-pointers to move into a fifth-place tie with former UC standout Damon Flint (1993-97) on the career 3-pointer list.
Vaughn has sank 175-of-506 (.346) 3-point field goal attempts in his first 69 career games, while Flint was 177-of-593 (.298) over his four-year career.
Vaughn is 83 treys behind Steve Logan (1998-2002) for fourth place.
Darnell Burton is the all-time leader in 3-pointers made with 306.
In his sixth year as a Division I head coach, Mick Cronin is one win shy of reaching his 100th career victory.
Cronin has compiled a 99-63 (.611) record over stints at Murray State (2003-06) and Cincinnati (2006-pres.).
Following is a list of Cronin’s milestone wins to date:
Win Opponent (School) Score Date
1 vs. Wagner (MSU) 92-68 Nov. 22, 2003
25 vs. Eastern Illinois (MSU) 81-51 Feb. 28, 2004
50 at Jacksonville State (MSU) 91-72 Dec. 19, 2005
75 vs. Temple (UC) 80-71 Dec. 9, 2006
FINDING HIS GROOVE
Junior guard Deonta Vaughn was the BIG EAST’s sixth-leading scorer last season, averaging 17.3 points per game. As Vaughn adjusted to the new faces on the team this season and the transition to running more of the offense as the point guard, his scoring was down over the first three games, averaging 10.3 points a night.
Since scoring a season-high 17 vs. Coastal Carolina (Nov. 24), Vaughn has picked up where he left off in 2007-08, scoring 16.3 points per game over the last four.
KNOCKING IT DOWN
One of the most noticeable differences for Cincinnati this season is its ability to shoot the ball. This year, UC is shooting 45.8 percent from the field, an improvement of 4.0 percent from last year (41.8).
UC shot 53.2 percent (33-62) from the floor vs. Coastal Carolina (Nov. 24), its highest field-goal percentage since knocking down 34-of-63 shots (54.0 percent) in a 91-90 loss to Wofford during the 2006-07 season.
The Bearcats lowest shooting percentage this season was 33.3 percent against Florida State (Nov. 29) in the Global Sports Classic.
The individual players that have made the most dramatic improvements are sophomore guard Alvin Mitchell and sophomore center Anthony McClain. Mitchell, who shot 26.3 percent last season, is the Bearcats third-leading scorer (9.7 ppg), hitting on 44.9 percent from the field, while McClain leads all players in shooting percentage at 75.0 percent (15-20), up 30.8 percent from last year (.442).
PLAY DEFENSE AND REBOUND
UC basketball has built its success over the last 20 years on two core values ... defense and rebounding. Head coach Mick Cronin learned it as an assistant at UC and those same values still hold true.
This season UC has shown marked improvement in each category through the first seven games, holding its opponents to 57.4 points per game and 35.9 percent shooting, while averaging 43.9 rebounds per game and a +12.1 rebounding margin. Last year, UC allowed opponents 63.8 points per contest on .410 shooting.
The Bearcats were out rebounded on average last year, 36.8 to 36.5.
Cincinnati is nationally ranked among the Top 25 in rebounding margin (+12.1/4th), scoring defense (57.4/25th), field goal percentage defense (.359/18th), and scoring margin (+16.3/25th).
Freshman guard Dion Dixon gives the Bearcats’ backcourt a boost this year in rebounds, averaging 4.1 boards per game. In seven games this season, Dixon has pulled down five or more rebounds three times, including a career-high 10 vs. Texas Southern (Nov. 18
FINDING MORE DEPTH
In 2007-08, the Cincinnati Bearcats relied on their starting five to generate 72.4 percent of the offense (46.8 points per game).
This season the tide has swung as UC’s bench is scoring 31.9 points per game or 43.3 percent of the points.
The Bearcats have three players averaging over five points or more off the bench, led by the team’s third-leading scorer Alvin Mitchell (9.7 ppg).
Steve Toyloy, the team’s third-leading rebounder is averaging 3.9 points and 4.9 rebounds in 15.9 minutes a game.
Cincinnati has nine players averaging 10 or more minutes per game. Out of those nine, eight are averaging 15 minutes or more.
MITCHELL MAKES ADJUSTMENTS
After scoring 33 points per game as a senior at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., sophomore guard Alvin Mitchell found the transition to college basketball difficult last season as he averaged 2.8 points and shot 26.3 percent from the floor.
After spending a lot of time in the gym during the offseason, Mitchell has found his shooting touch once again and is third on the team in scoring with 9.7 points per game in 20-plus minutes per game off the bench.
It took Mitchell just seven games this season to eclipse his 2007-08 season points total (62) as he scored his 63rd point of the year vs. UAB on Dec. 6.
Against Texas Southern (Nov. 18) and Western Illinois (Nov. 24), Mitchell led the team in scoring each night, improving on his career-high for points with 15 vs. TSU and 19 vs. WIU. In each game, Mitchell knocked down a career-high four 3-pointers.
Only seven of his 22 baskets this season are not 3-pointers and he is shooting 46.7 percent (14-of-30) from behind the arc.
Mitchell’s 3-point shooting played a big part in the Bearcats win at UNLV. With the Bearcats trailing by two, 59-57, and 3:13 left in the game, Mitchell hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put UC up by four, a lead it did not relinquish.
MAKING HIS MINUTES
The Cincinnati Bearcats have faced teams with smaller, quicker post players to start the season, limiting sophomore center Anthony McClain’s minutes to 9.9 per contest.
The 7-foot-0 native of Trenton, N.J., has taken full advantage of his minutes, averaging 5.4 points and 4.0 rebounds. Pro-rated over 30 minutes, McClain would average 16.4 points and 12.1 rebounds.
Against Western Illinois (Nov. 22), McClain provided a spark off the bench for the Bearcats, scoring a career-high 11 points, swatting a career-high four blocked shots, pulling down seven rebounds (matching a season high), while playing 14 minutes.
Part of the increase in production from his 2.7 ppg and 3.0 rpg last season is his health. Last season, McClain battled through a foot injury that limited his minutes and required off-season surgery.
GETTING RIGHT TO BUSINESS
With the departure of five veteran players from last year’s squad that accounted for 33.6 points per game, Cronin needed to find scoring in the off-season and his Class of 2008-09 has not disappointed.
More impressively, the group is averaging 19.7 rebounds per game — almost half of the team’s nightly average (44.9 percent).
A LONG ROAD BACK
Senior forward Mike Williams has battled and persevered during his basketball career since first stepping foot on a college campus at the University of Texas in 2004-05.
A highly-recruited McDonald’s All-American, Williams spent two seasons at Texas (2004-06) where he played in 58 games and averaged 2.7 points and 3.4 rebounds a game. He helped the Longhorns to an NCAA Tournament berth in 2005-06.
After his sophomore season at Texas, Williams decided to transfer to the University of Cincinnati to join Mick Cronin who had just taken over as head coach at his alma mater.
After sitting out the 2006-07 season due to NCAA transfer rules, Williams was set to join the Bearcats for the 2007-08 season, but was lost for the year during preseason workouts when he ruptured an Achilles tendon.
After missing last year, Williams made his Bearcats debut during UC’s exhibition games and on Nov. 16, 2008 vs. South Dakota — a span of 973 days — played in his first regular-season game at Cincinnati. Williams scored eight points and pulled down nine rebounds vs. the Coyotes.
Williams has made a dramatic impact on the team this season, averaging 9.9 points and 5.3 rebounds in 24.6 minutes of work.
He netted a career-high 17 points vs. UAB last week, knocking down 11-of-14 free throws.
His 85.2 percent (23-of-27) free throw percentage leads the team and is 85th in the NCAA.
He registered his first double-double at UC vs. Florida State (Nov. 28) with 11 points and 11 boards.
Part of the improvement in the Bearcats defense this season has been the added dimension of a shot blocker. In 2006-07 and 2007-08, UC was ranked last in the 16-team BIG EAST in blocked shots, averaging 1.93 and 2.28, respectively.
This season, Cincinnati has climbed to eighth in the league, swatting away 4.6 shots per game.
Sophomore center Anthony McClain leads UC with 11 blocks this year, including a career-high four against Coastal Carolina (Nov. 24).
The Bearcats’ 31-point wins over South Dakota (Nov. 16) and Texas Southern (Nov. 18) to open the year are the first back-to-back 30-plus point victories for UC since the 2001-02 season when the Red and Black defeated Louisiana-Monroe by 36 points (102-66) on Dec. 20, 2001, and Mississippi State by 34 points (90-56) on Dec. 21, 2001.
The 31-point wins also equal the largest margin of victory under head coach Mick Cronin. Cronin won his Cincinnati debut at Fifth Third Arena on Nov.10, 2006 with a 70-39 victory over Howard.
BEARCATS JOIN FIELD FOR 2009 MAUI INVITATIONAL
The EA Sports Maui Invitational announced last month that the University of Cincinnati will replace Louisville in the 2009 tournament field.
The Bearcats join former national champions Arizona, Maryland, and Wisconsin along with Colorado, Gonzaga, Vanderbilt and host Chaminade University of Honolulu.
The invitational, which turns 26-years old next season, will take place Thanksgiving Week 2009 in the Lahaina Civic Center.
It will be Cincinnati’s first appearance in the Maui Invitational.
VAUGHN A COUSY AWARD NOMINEE
Junior guard Deonta Vaughn has been named one of 35 Division I nominees for the Bob Cousy Award presented by The Hartford.
The award is given annually to the top collegiate male point guard spanning across all divisions within the game by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
The selection criteria emphasize leadership, team work, success, and fundamentals as being critical parts for the game of basketball as a point guard.
Nominations are solicited from across the country from head coaches and the winner is selected by a Blue Ribbon Selection Committee.
Vaughn joins fellow BIG EAST Conference nominees: Edgar Sosa (Louisville), Jonny Flynn (Syracuse), Levance Fields (Pittsburgh), Malik Boothe (St. John’s), and Scottie Reynolds (Villanova).
HOME SWEET HOME
The Bearcats open the season with just three road games in their first 14 contests before starting BIG EAST Conference play on Jan. 4 at Marquette.
Two of the three road games were part of the Global Sports Classic. After playing home games vs. Western Illinois (Nov. 22) and Coastal Carolina (Nov. 24), the Bearcats traveled to Las Vegas for the final two rounds at the Thomas & Mack Center where they faced Florida State (Nov. 28) and UNLV (Nov. 29).
The other lone pre-conference road game is at 2008 NCAA national runner-up Memphis on Dec. 29.
UC is 258-50 (.838) in games at Fifth Third Arena since the building opened in 1989-90.
For the second year in a row, the University of Cincinnati will go the season minus one of its top players as highly-touted freshman point guard Cashmere Wright suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during preseason practices.
Wright underwent surgery to repair his ACL and will miss the season as he goes through rehabilitation over the next 6-8 months.
Wright, a 6-0, 175-pound native of Savannah, Ga., was a highly-regarded high school prospect who was listed as one of the nation’s Top 100 players by many of the national recruiting services and was listed as the No. 12 point guard in 2007-08 by Rivals.com.
BEARCATS INK ONE IN EARLY SIGNING PERIOD
Sean Kilpatrick, a native of White Plains, N.Y., signed a national letter of intent during the first week of the early signing period to play for UC next year.
Kilpatrick, a 6-foot-5 guard/forward was a three-time all-league and all-section selection at White Plains Senior High School and was the school’s second-leading scorer. He averaged 25.6 ppg as a senior.
He is is playing for Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass., this season and averaged 23.0 ppg in his first five games.
UAB GAME NOTES - DEC. 6
The win snapped a two-game losing streak vs. UAB and is Mick Cronin’s first victory against the Blazers.
Down 13-11 with 12:09 in the first half, UC went on an 11-0 run to take a 22-13 lead at 9:47. Junior guard Deonta Vaughn scored five of the 11 points on a jumper and a 3-pointer.
The Bearcats held UAB 0-for-9 from 3-point line until it hit its first trey at 15:52 of the second half. UAB finished the game 6-for-25 (.240) from downtown.
The Blazers are the first team in 2008-09 to shoot 40 percent vs. Cincinnati, connecting on 30-of-75 shots (.400) from the floor.
The Bearcats shot a season-high 75.7 percent (28-of-37) from the free throw line. Senior forward Mike Williams led the way hitting 11-of-14 (.785), including 5-for-6 in the final two minutes of the game.
For the fifth time this season and the second game in a row, UC pulled down 40 or more rebounds with 42 vs. UAB. All 10 Bearcats who played pulled down at least one rebound, led by Rashad Bishop who equaled his career high. It is the fourth time this season, every UC player pulled down at least one rebound.
Cincinnati’s 87 points are the most the team has scored since posting 96 (96-83) vs. West Virginia in an overtime win at home on Jan. 20, 2007. The West Virginia game is also the last time UC allowed 70 or more points in a victory.
UC hit on 26-of-52 (.500) shots in the game, marking the third time this season UC has shot 50.0 percent or better in a game. Before this season, the Bearcats had shot 50 percent or better in a game only twice under Mick Cronin, both in 2006-07.
Senior forward Mike Williams was the Bearcats’ leading scorer with a career-high 17 points. Williams netted 11 of his 17 points from the free throw line. He was 3-for-5 from the field.
Sophomore forward Darnell Wilks, who had scored just three points his last four games, came out against UAB and hit his first two shots, knocking down a 3-pointer and a jumper for five points. Wilks finished the game 3-for-5 from the field and 2-for-4 from behind the arc for a career-high eight points. He also added a career-high two assists.
Sophomore guard Rashad Bishop had one of his best games as a UC basketball player, scoring a season-high nine points and equaling his career bests with eight rebounds and two blocked shots.
Freshman forward Yancy Gates connected on his first career 3-point attempt with 6:30 left in the game to put Cincinnati up, 64-52. Gates, who equaled his season high with 22 minutes, ended with 11 points.