Part of what makes sports rivalries fun is the fact that simply hating someone in real life is pretty much unacceptable. We are, blessedly, a society that allows a great deal to go unhated. Creed, religion, race, orientation, and all manner of preferences are accepted and even praised. That's a very good thing. In sports, though, things are different. Here hate is still welcomed and no week brings it out quite like the Crosstown Shootout week. I mention this, because I hate Cincinnati. I hate them a lot.
"So Little Brother's coming to play their final neutral site game against the Big Bad Bearcats - is that what I'm hearing on the interwebs?" "He only scored 6 points in last year's Shootout, so I expect him to be cramped up and ready to take over. Did I say cramped up?" "If Vanilla Ice and Chewbacca had a kid, it'd be Matt Stainbrook (#40), the 6'10" ogre wearing blue and silver;" "Rebounding margin is the one area that both teams have similar numbers." "On paper, this is a mismatch. The 'Cats turnover margin is +7.4; Xavier's is -.7 (and they haven't played a D like Cincinnati's)." "Both teams get to the free throw stripe at similar rates, but XU's FT% is 12 points less than UC's. The 'Cats average 19 point victories to XU's 9 point wins."
I've cribbed all those quotes directly from pregame coverage from the Bearcats SBN. Yes, folks that's what passes for analysis over there. It's jokes about cramps and how Matt Stainbrook looks, it's turnover margin and rebounding margin being used in a supposedly serious article on basketball. Most importantly, it oozes with the kind of disdain that UC fans seem to hold for the number one team in their city. Just in case you forgot why you were supposed to hate, that's a little reminder.
As for the game, it hardly lived up to the hype. For one thing, Xavier's fans were much more engaged from the opening tip. The one-sided nature of the crowd came well through the radio, where chants of "Who's Kilpatrick?" could be heard clearly for most of the game. The game started tight, with a jumper from Shaq Thomas making it an 11-8 Musketeer lead (all of the leads were Musketeer leads) seven minutes into the game.
Xavier then went on a 13-2 run that, for all intents and purposes, ended the game with 7:36 to play in the first half. Matt Stainbrook (7/11/2) scored on a beautiful assist from a slashing Myles Davis (5/1/3) and UC never came closer than ten the rest of the way. After that a James Farr (10/6/1) three and another Stainbrook run started to drive the nails into the Bearcat coffin. Six straight points from the line, four from a locked in Justin Martin (17/5/2), and Xavier led by 21 and looked certain to run away with the game. Sean Kilpatrick briefly came out of his slumber near the end of half, but Xavier led 41-25 with 20 minutes to play.
The Bearcats came out of the locker room at the half and very briefly looked to make a contest of it. Two Kilpatrick free throws with 13:23 left in the game made the lead ten and briefly caused a bit of tightness in Xavier chests, but nine straight points off three pointers by Brandon Randolph (8/4/2) and two absolute daggers from a remarkably uncramped Semaj Christon (8/2/2) and the game was over. Trailing 57-38, the Bearcats simply capitulated. The lead reached as much as 22 before ending 64-47 and with all of Xavier's walk-ons on hand to dribble the game out.
I'd like to say a lot more about what should be one of the big games of Xavier's season, but there just isn't a lot to say. Consider for a moment that Bowling Green, Miami, Evansville, and Abilene Christian were all just as close or closer to Xavier with 13 minutes to go as UC was. Bowling Green and Evansville went on to give Xavier games, UC now joins the elite company of Miami and the boys from Abilene as cupcakes that simply faded away down the stretch. This game told you what you need to know about these two programs right now: one is a major school playing in a power conference, the other is now staring down the barrel of having dropped several leagues to find winnable competition and still not being good enough. Let me know when Dayton is back on the schedule, because this rivalry game was just another Big East tuneup this year.
- Can we get a whole game out of Super JMart? YES. Martin came to play against the Bearcats and he tore them to pieces almost from the off. He made hustle plays, crashed the glass, guarded Kilpatrick, and buried shot after shot. The entire package of skills was on display on Saturday, and more performances like that make Xavier a top five Big East squad. 5-9/3-5/4-4 was Justin's line from the floor. The fact that he did it all with that look of prenatural calm (confusion?) he always wears made it all the better. On appearance it seemed like he was crushing UC while his mind was elsewhere. Of course, it may have been.
- Will Coach Mack go big? It's hard to say what the plan was, because the whistle destroyed any lineup continuity that Xavier would have liked to have. Thankfully, the Musketeers are deep and Mack just sent wave after wave of talent off the bench. Nine Musketeers logged six or more minutes on Saturday night. The walk-ons played too, because it was a rout.
- Can Xavier handle the little things? Joel was in reference to ball security and free throws. X turned the ball over 20 times but, incredibly, held the Bearcats to just 15 points off those turnovers. Xavier's defense suffocated UC to the tune of 33% from the floor for the game. Xavier could've turned the ball over 25 times playing defense like that. (Note: this is not a suggestion). At the line the Musketeers converted at an 81.8% clip
we've all come to expect we were completely shocked to see.
Tweet(s) of the Game:
@BannersParkway Time to re-take that poll. No more nerves. #ZIPEMUP— Brian Leibforth (@bleibforth) December 15, 2013
Love the hashtag, Brian.
@MoEgger1530 @BannersParkway Xavier's having a much easier time against Cincinnati away from home then they had against Bowling Green— David Griggs (@HoopsHDDavidG) December 15, 2013
Indeed, David, they are.
He's an angry elf! (Cronin's pout/scowl updated to include holiday cheer. Caption credit to @BannersParkway) #daPout pic.twitter.com/ko9w4k9fSk— B (@brigidxu) December 16, 2013
Thanks, Brigid, for both the credit on the caption and a great shot of Saint Mick.
@BannersParkway Cronin clearly needs a reflection session.— Playground Hero (@bdobneymkII) December 15, 2013
More quotes from Bearcat fans
"I believe the first four loose balls went to X when the game was still (I guess) winnable. Every time UC had a chance to get a transition bucket and turn the momentum, they turned it right back over and X nailed a killer three-pointer."
"I'm very discouraged because unless this was just one awful game I don't see how this team beats anyone who is NCAA good."
"Five weeks into the season that dream lays shattered and broken at our collective feet. Where do we go from here?"
"This team has come to define the word disarray. I will watch because that's what I do, but I don't think I will enjoy myself all that much."
Enjoy the Belk Bowl, kids!