Almost exactly a year removed from the infamous brawl between Cincinnati and Xavier, there was less than a 0% chance of anything close to that situation happening again in the yearly rivalry game between the teams separated by ~3 miles. Instead, we got what we expected - a hard fought game filled with passion and emotion accompanied by a raucous crowd.
After last year’s mess they decided to move the game to a neutral location (after alternating campuses for the last 25 years), splitting the tickets 50-50 amongst the schools and renaming the game from ‘Crosstown Shootout’ to ‘Crosstown Classic’ (to curtail the violence obviously).
The Bearcats eventually ran away with a 15 point win, but it likely would have been much closer if it wasn’t for two key injuries to the Musketeers. Their best player, freshman point guard Semaj Christon, missed almost all of the second half with a leg injury, and their only other significant contributor, sophomore guard Dee Davis, was constantly checking in and out as he dealt with cramps for most of the half.
Without Christon and Davis in the lineup, Xavier struggled mightily with Cincinnati’s full court pressure defense, turning the ball over a total of 15 times, most of them in the second half. There’s no telling how this game would have turned out had these injuries not happened, but Xavier was up by two at half, mostly due to their guard play.
Cincy on the other hand had a rough first half. Not only did it seem there was a lid on the basket, but they were unnecessarily settling for long-range shots. Coach Cronin described his team’s first half performance as a ‘complete debacle’ as they scored only 22 points.
The second half was better. They ran their offense and attacked the basket with authority. Mainly, it was Sean Kilpatrick having his was with his opponent. And it helped that Xavier couldn’t hit a free throw, finishing 2-13 from the line.
Some may discredit this win for the Bearcats using the continued argument that they’ve yet to beat a good team. But the fact of the matter is – this was a rivalry game (never easy no matter how up or down either team is for a given year), on a neutral court, and on national television. Cincy is the best rebounding team in the country, averaging 46.2 per game (whenever there is an offensive rebound opportunity, I always assume JaQuon Parker is going to come up with it), who plays excellent defense from end to end, and has an exceptional back court. They may not end up being in the top two or three of the Big East come the end of conference play, but they will come darn close to that - as they are 11-0 today for a reason.