A name change certainly wasn't enough to change the Cincinnati and Xavier game one bit. All of the physical basketball that we know and love in Cincinnati certainly was on display at US Bank Arena tonight before a crowd of 14,528.
Cincinnati fans outnumbered Xavier fans, but both fan bases were really into the game, kind of what you see in local high school basketball show downs with two students sections. Despite below average facilities, US Bank Arena really had an interesting and exciting feel to it, regardless of who you were rooting for.
Sean Kilpatrick came out of the gate hot with a three in the opening seconds, but Xavier settled down and gave No. 11 Cincinnati a very physical first half.
Xavier held a small lead for most of the first half and at one point had Cincinnati shooting 18% (4-22) when Xavier was up 16-11. Xavier did a great job of holding onto the ball and not letting Cincinnati get comfortable in transition in the first half, resulting in a 24-22 lead at halftime.
Cincinnati's Wright and Kilpatrick had 7 points each while Xavier forward Travis Taylor had a very impressive first half with 8 points and 8 rebounds. Taylor's 18 minutes in the first half were huge for Xavier as Justin Martin got into early foul trouble. Xavier had a chance to pull away before half, but was 0-6 from the free throw line.
This was Cashmere Wright's fifth game vs. Xavier, and he didn't want to leave with a 1-4 record. Cashmere said after, "I couldn't leave here with a loss".
He got some help from Sean Kilpatrick in the second half, where the Bearcats ended Xavier's shot of pulling off an upset.
Mick Cronin said, "I was highly embarrassed at halftime" and apparently his team was too.
Kilpatrick and the Bearcats started the 2nd half on a 17-4 run, with Kilpatrick outscoring his first half total of 7 points in the first 4 minutes of the half.
Xavier had trouble responding to the Bearcats new sense of energy, especially on defense.
Mick Cronin said, "Our pressure defense was the difference in the game" and a lot of that had to do with the pressure early on in the 2nd half.
Xavier guards Semaj Christon and Dee Davis had cramps pop up in the second half forcing Xavier to play their already thin bench a little more than they would like to.
Chris Mack noticed a difference in Cincinnati's defense in the second half saying, "Once they get one turnover it seems like they come harder and harder."
Also referring to the Bearcats pressure he said, "UC has closing speed like NFL defensive backs do".
The pressure defense turned into aggressive offense, where the Bearcats pulled away with a combination of much better shooting and attacking the basket. Cincinnati only got to the line three times in the first half, but responded in the second half with sixteen more attempts. In addition to the free throw shooting, Cincinnati shot 43% from the field in the second half, a huge improvement over the first half total of 25%.
Normally when the aggression and pace increases, so do turnovers, but Cincinnati really took care of the ball in the second half.
Cronin said after, "We only had 4 turnovers in the second half" and that is another reason Cincy pulled away so quickly in the second half.
Sean Kilpatrick finished with 25 points and 7 rebounds, while Cashmere Wright had 15 points and 6 rebounds. Xavier's leading scorer was Travis Taylor with 12 points and 10 rebounds, but was shut down in the second half.
Despite shooting 1-7 from the field, and 0 for his last 20 from the three point line, Titus Rubles played a very efficient game with 7 deflections and 9 rebounds. Titus wasn't the only one getting rebounds though as the whole starting lineup had 5 or more rebounds.
Although the Bearcats had some issues converting on offensive rebounds, they crushed Xavier on the offensive glass 20 to 13 and 47 to 37 overall. It's hard to lose a basketball game when you nearly get 50 rebounds.
It's also hard to win a basketball game by 15 points when you shoot 33% from the field, but the Bearcats also did that. What else can you expect in the Crosstown Classic?
After the 60-45 victory, Mick Cronin and the players had great things to say about the US Bank environment.
Mick said, "If it is the cities game then we need to play it downtown" while Cashmere Wright said it was a great experience for him and the other players.
Cincinnati now leads the series 49-31 and the Bearcats now head back home to 5/3 Arena on Saturday vs. Wright State at 4pm.