A rivalry will be partially renewed when the West Virginia Mountaineers head to Cincinnati Saturday evening to play the host Xavier Musketeers.
West Virginia (6-1) is coached by former University of Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins. While leading the Bearcats, Huggins had many memorable encounters with Xavier in a fierce rivalry known as the “Crosstown Shootout” by fans and players.
Huggins went 8-8 in his 16 games against Xavier and is making his first return to Xavier since leaving Cincinnati in 2005 for Kansas State.
“I don’t have any good thoughts of Xavier whatsoever,” said Huggins, who began his tenure at West Virginia in 2007. “None. Absolutely none.”
Huggins led Cincinnati to the Final Four in 1992 and enjoyed great success with the Bearcats that led to his induction to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame earlier this year.
“They will call names out, yes. It’s quite a rivalry. I think moreso on their side than UC’s side. (Former Xavier head coach) Pete (Gillen) and I didn’t get along very well. Then that all changed. Pete and I got along very well after that. We got to be good friends.”
Cincinnati will host Xavier in this year’s annual grudge match on Dec. 10.
“For us to be successful, we’ve got to be able to handle their pressure and we have to play hard ourselves for 40 minutes and we have to be able to rebound,” said Xavier coach Sean Miller. “Those are things we’ve talked a lot about. But it’s also a great opportunity. A game on the weekend against a Big 12 opponent, Hall of Fame coach, a program we really respect and then on our end, we’ve played some really tough games.”
Xavier (5-3) has played a challenging high-profile schedule early in the season, losing to No. 12 Indiana at home plus No. 8 Duke and No. 6 Gonzaga in the Phil Knight Legacy tournament. They also beat Florida in that event’s opener.
“When you play those games, you get hardened yourself, but we have to be ready,” Miller added. “We’re really looking forward to the Cintas Center to be as electric as it can possibly be. We’re going to need a great crowd because usually those types of teams, those coaches, they don’t beat themselves. You have to beat them.”
The Musketeers are led by a trio of players all averaging at least 15 points per game — senior guard Souley Boum (15.8), junior guard Colby Jones (15.7) and senior forward Jack Nunge (15.0).
West Virginia has four players currently averaging double figures in scoring, led by senior guard Erik Stevenson, who has a team-high 14.1 points per game average.
–Field Level Media