CINCINNATI TOPS XAVIER IN CROSSTOWN RIVALRY
Bearcats snap three-game series slide to city rival, now 15-0 on season
While the sports news around the country is fixated on this weekend's NFL Playoff match-ups, fans in Cincinnati have a different topic of conversation. The 15-0 Cincinnati Bearcats.
Last night the Bearcats matched the 1998-1999 team with the second-best start in school history with a 66-46 drubbing of rival Xavier in the annual rivalry game before a crowd of more than 13,000 which included Cincinnati baseball legend Pete Rose at Fifth Third Arena. Local product Yancy Gates led the home team with 22 points and 14 rebounds in the win.
“More proud of the win," said Gates afterwards when asked about his performance. "If I had to choose (between points or rebounds), it would be the rebounds. Down the stretch that was the key of keeping them off the glass. At halftime, we were down 2 or 3 on the boards. We wanted to come out at half and change that.”
Cincinnati used full court pressure, which turned Xavier over 17 times, and a strong performance on the glass, outrebounding their opponent 36-29 for the game, as key factors of UC ending their three-game losing streak in the series to the Musketeers. However it was the play of Gates that had his coach most proud afterwards.
"Yancy decided it was time to win the Crosstown Shootout," said Mick Cronin. "The more we got him the ball; the more we got separation. Made them defend him more inside and got us to the free throw lane. He was definitely the difference.”
The Bearcats got off to a slow start and a Jamel McLean put-back basket gave Xavier a 10-4 lead with 13:38 left in the half and UC went scoreless for a 5:20 stretch that was broken by a Dion Dixon basket with 11:46 left in the half. This started a 22-5 run where Cincinnati took a lead they would never relinquish and when Gates scored with 2:35 left in the half, the lead was 11, 26-15. Gates scored 8 points in the run.
The Musketeers would chip away at the lead and another McLean basket would pull them within five points, 35-30 with 15:05 left in the second half. UC answered with 11 consecutive points to take their biggest advantage of the night, to that point, of 16 points, 46-30 with 12:38 left on a Larry Davis three-pointer. The score would never be closer than 13 points again as the Bearcats put away the game on the way to the 66-46 victory.
Dion Dixon added 16 points and 9 rebounds while Cashmere Wright scored 10, making all eight of his free throw attempts. As a team UC was 15 of 16 from the line on the night.
Tu Holloway, the Musketeers’ leading scorer at 21.3 points per game, managed only five on 2-of-13 shooting. As this game often does, it got physical and tempers flared a bit as Holloway was issued a technical for an elbow.
"They were a tough physical team," said Holloway. "They made it hard to get to the easy baskets. They were just a physical team."
Cronin credited his team's maturity this year in not getting caught up in the environment and keeping their cool, unlike some times in the past in the rivalry.
“Something happened at the other end that no one retaliated and we got the advantage," said Cronin. "I told our guys in pregame that everything we’ve talked about in maturity would be shown tonight.”
The Bearcats were also able to use their depth with the fullcourt pressure and players are sticking to their assignments defensively, another sign of the maturation of the team and program under Cronin.
"The thing about pressing is if you can throw them off their rhythm, Tu Halloway missing free throws because he is tired," pointed Cronin to a key element of his game plan. "The strength is our depth and we can run teams down and it shortens the shot clock. It stops them from possibly running a play that the coach calls. It’s a little easier to do it when you have a veteran team, and that is the luxury I have this year.”
Now the veteran club will face the toughest test of all in a difficult spot, heading to the Pavilion to face top-10 Villanova on Sunday in a building where the Wildcats have won 44 straight. Cronin hopes his big man is ready to bring his game once again.
"I have to point out to him that he has to do that again on Sunday and we have to get him the ball when he decides to dominate the paint on offense," said Cronin.
Sunday should be a good one. You can never let up in the BIG EAST as the next challenge is right around the corner. Even when your 15-0!
Labels: Basketball News