A recent rivalry

The writing is on the wall at Xavier – literally.

When talking about the Musketeers – for years the cream of the crop in the Atlantic 10 – Karl Hobbs mentions the jerseys hanging on the wall of Cintas Center in Cincinnati.

They commemorate the 13 former Xavier players that have found their way on to NBA rosters. David West, Lionel Chalmers, Brian Grant and Tyrone Hill. The list goes on as the years progress, as does Xavier’s chokehold on the Atlantic 10.

Karl Hobbs recognizes and respects what Thad Matta, now head coach at Ohio State, and head coach Sean Miller have built in Cincinnati. In setting a benchmark for his program, Hobbs has used Xavier countless times as the model of success.

“They have a world-class facility that they play in,” Hobbs said. “They have one of the best facilities. They sell the place out. All the games are on TV locally. It’s a whole different world from here.”

In the twilight of Xavier’s reign, after it won the A-10 championship and reached the NCAA’s Elite Eight in 2003-2004, along came GW: a run-and-gun team rife with young talent and a new animated coach. Universes collided, as the two teams played with an eerily similar style. A rivalry, with no footing in geographic proximity, was born.

Looking at the record, the rivalry doesn’t seem very competitive. A Hobbs-led team has beaten Xavier only once: during last year’s magical run that ended with an undefeated season in the A-10.

In the 516 miles between Cincinnati and Washington, a leg-bruising, last-second deciding type of game was born. To understand when the rivalry was originally conceived, you have to go back.

Maybe to March 1999 when Shawnta Rogers hit a three-pointer at the buzzer in front of nearly 5,500 fans to topple the Musketeers for GW’s first A-10 West title. It snowballed in the 2004 A-10 Tournament when Xavier pummeled GW in the semifinals.

Most unforgettably for current students was 2004’s last-second shot by Stanley Burrell, which gave Xavier a 66-65 win. But last year, the Colonials put all the pieces together to win 89-86, erasing a 17-point deficit.

Carl Elliott, a senior that has lost three times to the Musketeers, agreed with the fact that the rivalry was born from defeat.

“I think that’s the thing,” Elliott said. “They’ve been close games every time we’ve played. It will be a great game again.”

Cheyenne Moore, a transfer from Clemson, has never played against Xavier but he feels a deep sense of competition.

“Everybody is calling for tickets,” Moore said. “Everyone wants to see it.”

The next chapter will be decided Sunday, most likely in front of a packed Smith Center. If history follows suit, the next chapter will be closed in the last second.

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