December 18, 2015

Xavier thrived in what is usually one of its most intense games of the season and will likely have enough motivation to avoid a letdown in its next one.

Seeking their best start in program history, the 10th-ranked Musketeers will try to win a rematch Saturday with an Auburn team that defeated them in double overtime last season.

Xavier matched its 10-0 start from 1996-97 with a 65-55 win over crosstown rival No. 23 Cincinnati last Saturday. Myles Davis scored a season-high 17 points in his team's 22nd consecutive nonconference home victory.

The Musketeers will also try to win 11 in a row in a single season for the first time since Dec. 31, 2008-Feb. 5, 2009, when they take on the Tigers (5-2).

In its first season under Bruce Pearl, Auburn rallied from a 13-point deficit in the second half for an 89-88 home victory over Xavier on Dec. 20.

"To not get that win last year, it really hurt. That's the good thing about a home-and-home series. You always get that chance again," Musketeers forward James Farr said. "We have to capitalize on that."

Farr and his teammates won't face three of Auburn's leading scorers from last season's matchup as K.T. Harrell, Antoine Mason and Malcolm Canada graduated. Harrell was the SEC's leading scorer with 18.5 points per game, but the Tigers have seen a big jump in their scoring this season because of a trio of transfers.

Auburn is among the nation's leaders with 87.1 points per game after averaging 67.9 in 2014-15. Junior guard Kareem Canty, who played one season at Marshall, is averaging a team-best 19.3 points.

Tyler Harris is averaging 17.0 points on 52.5 percent shooting and 9.1 rebounds following two seasons at Providence, where he faced Xavier four times in Big East play. T.J. Dunans is averaging 13.4 points on 51.4 percent shooting after two seasons at junior college.

Cinmeon Bowers is the Tigers' top returning player with 13.0 points and a team-best 9.7 rebounds per contest. He had 17 points on 8-of-14 shooting and six boards in last season's matchup.

Those four players accounted for all but 10 points in a 78-71 win over Mercer on Tuesday. Canty scored a team-best 21 and has totaled 49 in the past two games, including an 88-81 loss to Middle Tennessee last Saturday in Nashville.

The Tigers are 1-1 away from home. After this contest, their first of three games at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii is against New Mexico on Tuesday.

"I would say (Xavier is) probably going to be the toughest environment that we are going to play in all year," Pearl told the school's official website. "So it's just a great opportunity for our program to sort of see where we're at right now."

Auburn has lost 20 in a row to ranked teams and Xavier leading scorer Trevon Bluiett will try to help add to that skid while bouncing back from his worst performance of the season.

Bluiett, averaging 14.6 points, had three on 1-of-8 shooting against Cincinnati. He totaled 43 while making 13 of 21 shots and grabbed 21 rebounds in his first two games this month.

Bluiett had 16 points last season against Auburn despite shooting 3 of 11. He also pulled down seven rebounds and matched a career high with five assists.

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