Zach Freemantle’s recovery from foot surgery is complete and it comes at a good time for Xavier as it heads into Saturday’s Crosstown Shootout against visiting Cincinnati.
The 6-foot-9 Freemantle broke out for 24 points in just 20 minutes in Wednesday’s 96-50 home win over Ball State in his third contest since returning to action.
Now he looks to help the Musketeers defeat their city rivals for the seventh time in the past nine meetings. And the player who averaged 16.1 points and 8.9 rebounds last season pronounced himself as healthy after the romp over Ball State.
“It felt good,” Freemantle said. “It’s been a real long process to be able to go out there and help my team get a win like that.”
Xavier (8-1) has beaten teams such as Ohio State and Oklahoma State during its strong start. The loss was to Iowa State.
But in the eyes of Musketeers coach Travis Steele, everything ramps up several octaves when Xavier and Cincinnati — located about 2 1/2 miles apart — meet on the hardwood.
“I tell our guys all the time when you get up at 6 a.m. in the summer, these are the moments you live for. It’s the best rivalry in all of college basketball,” Steele told reporters. “Some of our guys have never experienced it … the environment is going to be absolutely electric.”
Cincinnati (7-2) owns wins over Georgia and Illinois. The losses were to Arkansas and Monmouth.
The Bearcats faced Bryant on Sunday, prevailing 73-58 as David DeJulius had a team-best 16 points.
First-year Cincinnati coach Wes Miller played three seasons at North Carolina, which has a fierce rivalry with close neighbor Duke.
“I’ll never sit here and say, ‘It’s just another game,'” Miller said of the battles with Xavier. “I’ve heard about it every day since the day I got here, which is neat.
“I’ve been really clear on this from Day 1, rivalries energize me. They excite me. I really enjoyed playing in big rivalries as a player. I’ve really enjoyed coaching in them as a coach. This is one of the greatest rivalries in sports.”
DeJulius averages a team-best 13 points per game for the Bearcats, who hold a 51-37 lead in the series. Nate Johnson’s 14.6 average paces Xavier.
–Field Level Media