We've all seen the footage by now. A black mass meeting a blue and white mass down near the baseline. As the fallout continues and suspensions are handed down, the one thing not being analyzed is the fight itself. Is there a reason Mark Lyons got more than Tu Holloway? How did Yancy Gates and Cheikh Mbodj only get six games? What actually happened?
In most fights, a pattern is followed. Usually the aggressors square off and begin the festivities. After that, things escalate when both peacemakers and further combatants enter the arena. Things happened much the same in the Crosstown Shootout this year. After Dezmine Wells, Tu Holloway, and Ge'Lawn Guyn got things kicked off, everyone piled on. What happened for the next two minutes is what people will be talking about for months. After watching the video dozens of times, this is what jumps out.
Things started on Thursday when Sean Kilpatrick said when asked if Tu Holloway would start for the Bearcats "Would he, with the players we have now? I would say no." Beside being obviously stupid, it lit the fuse that started the fight that occurred with 9.4 seconds left on Saturday. With 15:57 to play in the first half, the fans began taunting Kilpatrick at the line. While not in itself much, it just added intensity to an already charged atmosphere. When the teams crossed at halftime, more words and some shoves were exchanged. Holloway, obviously locked in, didn't engage anyone.
With 18.6 to play in the game, Tu Holloway converted a backdoor layup and finally had his chance to answer. As he jogged back down the bench sideline he jawed at anyone who came his way. When the UC bench came in view he repeatedly, and vehemently, announced that he ran this city, or words to that effect. As Dion Dixon tossed the fifth of UC's airballs, the Bearcat bench rose to yell back at Holloway. When Jaquon Parker rose to throw the ball back in, Holloway and Guyn went chest to chest about midway between the key and the three point stripe. It was about to get ugly.
The first person to join the action was the freshman Dez Wells. When Guyn threw a hand in Tu's face (apparently not making contact) Wells shoved the Bearcat to the floor. Yancy Gates, in the first of many poor choices, fired the loose ball into the scrum in an attempt to hit Holloway. As the ball bounced away Kenny Frease waded in what appeared to be an attempt to make peace. A good deed never goes unpunished, and the first of Gates flailing hooks landed squarely under Frease' eye. Whether Gates was aiming for Frease or just swinging isn't easy to tell, but it seems a major coincidence that Yancy hit the man who had dominated him all day.
As Frease hit the ground, Andre Walker dragged Gates away from the fight, now spilling rapidly toward the baseline. Mark Lyons, farthest to the right in the video, took several wild swings at a Bearcat who had come off the bench and was being restrained. Lyons continued to chase the player, whose number is obscured on film, until both Dez Wells, also swinging wildly, and Kelvin Gaines interceded.
As that was happening the most disturbing part of the incident occured back where Kenny Frease was still collecting himself. As the big man was lying stunned on the ground, Cheikh Mbodj drew his leg bag viciously stamped the pronated Frease. Curbstomping is the only verb that really describes the action of Mbodj, and his punishment should have been far more severe. Andre Walker, conducting himself as well as anyone did, checked on Frease before sprinting toward Wells, Lyons, and the mess on the baseline. Kenny crawled clear of the melee as Travis Taylor, leading Griffin McKenzie and Justin Martin, also raced by.
By this time, both benches had cleared of players and staff. To the credit of the crowd, no one from the stands joined the fracas. Dee Davis and Jeff Robinson came past Frease and moved toward to mass on the baseline. Both were intelligent enough to only conduct peacemaking activities. As the walk-ons and the Robinson/Davis contingent joined the mess, the UC staff members restraining Gates inexplicably let him go. Landon Amos was right in Gates' face when the big man got clear again, and Amos took a shot directly in the face. Amos had broken through the calmer wall that Robinson, Davis, and McKenzie were creating, and was certainly antagonizing Gates.
Brad Redford was the last Xavier player to approach the growing mob. As he loitered on the outside, Sean Kilpatrick blindsided him. For whatever reason, Kilpatrick avoided any sort of suspension for engaging the Xavier guard as he stayed outside the swirling morass. About 34 seconds after it started, the fight was mostly over.
For those of you scoring at home, no one won this one. While braggadocio and the tough guy mentality of college basketball demand that you rise to the occasion of a fight, it;s never the ideal way to end a game. That said, it happens. Ignore the middle aged white guys in the national media that tell you this is an illustration of what is wrong with sport. The same stations that run highlight after highlight of players holding up the three or yelling after a ferocious dunk have now taken the opportunity to wheel on the same mentality that feeds their shows. Fights move copy. The truth, that young men in a charged and competitive atmosphere will act like young men in a charged and competitive atmosphere, is far less interesting. College basketball practices and games are rife with trash talking, shoving, and swag. This is what happens.