Remember how Cincinnati is the team that can change the game on defense? Remember all the talk early in the year about how UC's offense was revamped? If you like those ideas, don't watch the end of this game. In the 10:20 between when UC cut it to 5 on a Coreontae DeBerry layup to a Farad Cobb three with :06 on the clock and the Xavier starters on the bench, Xavier cranked up the defensive intensity and held UC to 5 points on 1-13/0-8/3-5 shooting and 4 turnovers. The Muskies sacrificed a little rebounding to implement a wide-reaching 1-3-1 zone, but UC had no answer for it. That was a comprehensive zipping up that Tu would have been proud to mention in the post-game press conference.
If there was any question about who is the leader of this team, there isn't anymore. The man with the mangy beard and a set you could bowl with stepped up to the tune of 17/3/3 with 0 turnovers on 7-10/3-4/0-0 shooting. When UC got a 5-0 run late in the first half, Myles was there to shut the door with a deep three. When Edmond Sumner got a little ahead of himself, Myles was there to slide over to the ball and calm the game down. When Jalen Reynolds got tangled with Octavius Ellis and went down in a heap, Myles was there to drag Jalen out of the pile and talk him down. There have been a few players who have gone down in Xavier history as great leaders on the floor. Myles showed that tonight and led the game in scoring for good measure.
Jalen was the victim of some really bad officiating tonight. The game was fairly violent, but he picked up two touch fouls early in the first half that nobody else was getting called for. He only got 18 minutes on the night, but he finished with a 8/6/0 line with a block and three steals on 4-7/0-0/0-1 shooting. He didn't get much of a chance to go man-up defending Ellis, but he was hugely disruptive in the middle of the zone tonight and a big part of burying the game down the stretch.
James Farr has played in three Crosstown Shootouts and been big in all of them. He shot 4-4/0-0/1-4 (ignore that last number) on his way to 9/6/1 with 0 turnovers and 2 blocks. This was less a story of a senior playing his last Shootout and more a story of a guy who apparently lives for this game doing what he does anytime these two teams meet. He brought an edge to the Xavier effort on both ends that could have been missing with Jalen out; there may be no big man in the nation who can hang with Jalmes Farrnolds right now.
Remy Abell was huge. His line was a modest 9/2/3, but his shooting of 3-6/3-5/0-0 tells the story. He had struggled early in the year and was forcing his shot a little bit, but tonight he let the game come to him and hit some really, really big threes for Xavier. Any game in which Xavier wins with defense is going to have Remy's fingerprints on it, and he was a large part of harrying UC's guards into not being able to set the offense.
There are some times that pictures - especially moving ones - tell you more than words can. Ed Sumner had 11/2/5 with 3 steals. He struggled with ball security, committing 5 turnovers. And he did this to Octavius Ellis, who realized partway through that he didn't have a prayer:
Cincinnati's Gary Clark had 0 points and 2 offensive boards. That's only important in the context of Trevon Bluiett going for 3/6/1 on 1-8/0-2/1-1 shooting and still getting 35 minutes of playing time. For Xavier to go with the four-small lineup that has been so effective, they need Tre to be able to defend bigger players and keep them off the glass. In holding Clark to 9.8 points below his season average tonight, Tre did just that.
Xavier sacrificed some rebounding at the end to go into the 1-3-1, but for 11 offensive boards, UC only got 8 second-chance points. The Musketeers were committed to collapsing around a rebounder and then regaining their defensive shape quickly even when the bounces weren't coming their way. That's what a disciplined and committed defensive team looks like; the sky is the limit for X this year.
Odds and ends
- Sean O'Mara managed to play 8 minutes without getting a board, but he did his job well otherwise and didn't seem at all scared.
- Xavier forced 16 turnovers and scored 19 points off of them.
- Cincinnati never led.
- Pregame: "UC is tough inside. Remy is pivotal."
- First half: "Myles, nice. Should be flagrant."
- "Unreal! Cheap call on Jalen."
- "Big Game James!"
- "T on St. Mick? Say it ain't so!"
- "Sweet Music! Strap them on your back, son!"
- "Big Game James has come a long way in his career."
- "Good first half. Need to stay intense."
- Second half: "Sumner is not starting well."
- "We need to be more active on D."
- "Sweet Music!"
- "We've lost all focus."
- "James showing no fear. Everyone but James looks like they don't want the ball."
- "Dime from Sweet Music. Nice finish."
- "I just get too worked up for the Shootout! I knew we had 'em!"