Sunday, February 1, 2004

Rivals stumble into the Shootout


Crosstown Shootout: Xavier, UC focusing on correcting errors after losses rather than hype

By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Players and coaches from Cincinnati and Xavier will have to be forgiven if they don't revel in the hype of the upcoming Skyline Chili Crosstown Shootout as their fans and the media are wont to do.

For the first time in 15 years, each team is coming off a loss heading into Tuesday's game at Xavier's Cintas Center, the 71st meeting between the rivals.

"You guys can jump around and get all excited about Tuesday," UC coach Bob Huggins said. "Right now I don't give a damn. I'd like to attempt to fix what's screwed up."

Eighth-ranked Cincinnati lost 86-83 at home to Charlotte Saturday and could fall out of the top 10 when the new rankings are released Monday. Xavier lost its third straight game Saturday at Dayton, a 74-67 setback, and has dropped five of its last six.

Not since the 1988-89 Shootout have both UC and Xavier lost their preceding games. Both teams entered the game coming off losses six times during the 1980s.

Cincinnati's loss Saturday was its second Conference USA defeat and dropped the Bearcats to 15-2 overall and 6-2 in the league. Xavier is in last place in the Atlantic 10 West with a 2-5 conference record and is 10-9 overall.

So neither team might be as excited as the fans at taking away focus from conference races to play a non-league game.

"The media, the fans, they can elevate the pressure of a game," Xavier coach Thad Matta said. "(The media's) job is to steal the confidence. We've got to fight through that and make sure it doesn't happen."

Both teams will need a win to regain some momentum. Cincinnati hopes to stay in contention for a No. 1 or 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and Xavier aims just to win an at-large bid for the Tournament.

"We've lost, what, our last three games?" Xavier's Dedrick Finn said. "So we have to come out against UC, who's top-10 in the country and a very good team, and have that energy and excitement and beat them."

Losing feeling

Until Saturday, when Xavier and Cincinnati lost, the last time both teams lost the game preceding the Crosstown Shootout was the 1988-89 season.

Jan. 28, 1989

• Dayton 86, Cincinnati 80

• Butler 79, Xavier 76

Feb. 1, 1989, Crosstown Shootout

• Cincinnati 86, Xavier 76

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E-mail ddow@enquirer.com

Bill Koch contributed




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