Xavier came out and took back the city by punching the #11 team in the country in the mouth and completely banishing the ghosts of last season’s failures. A run by the Bearcats, fueled by Xavier’s struggles with full court pressure, brought the game back to respectability, but their inability to establish their usual dominance of the offensive glass was their undoing as Xavier simply outlasted them in the end.
Give Gates his due
Kaiser Gates has been a growing influence for Xavier this year with his clutch spot up shooting, but today he showcased his full skill set by completely nullifying UC star Gary Clark, holding him to 14 points on 15 shots. He also posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, jarring a crucial three with 3:41 left. His presence in ripping down 7 Bearcat misses was pivotal in keeping UC from enjoying the same dominance they held in second chance points a year ago, helping X to a 19-5 advantage in the category.
Kerem Kanter was your previously unsung hero today
Kanter has been coming on since scoring 15 against Hampton, showing stretches of quality against ASU and Baylor. Today, he took apart UC’s vaunted defense with his array of left handed post moves and his dead-eye three point stroke. Kanter was nothing short of unstoppable, posting 17 points in 18 minutes and helping Xavier to gain parity in the paint this year. He was found out a couple of times on defense, but he presented a problem that UC never really figured out how to address.
Q is still a work in progress
Goodin had his positives this game: a 10/5/8 line from a point guard who isn't known for his scoring will almost always get the job done, that is if he doesn’t say... turn the ball over 6 times. Goodin, in fact, did turn the ball over 6 times and looked shaky against the press for much of UC’s second half resurgence. Crucially, he did not commit any of those turnovers in the last 5 minutes of the game, and his 6-7 performance from the line was key in keeping UC at arm’s reach throughout.
Bonus Takeaway: The Seniors signed out on top
Today was the final Shootout for a storied group of Xavier seniors, three of who go out with 3-1 records in the rivalry. After a pair of performances to forget his first two year, Trevon Bluiett wrote himself into Shootout lore last year and followed it up with 28 points this time around. Macura was subdued on offense, with 7 points on 3-10 shooting, but grabbed 3 boards, 3 assists, and 2 steals, while only incurring 1 turnover in his 33 minutes. O’Mara was hot early, but was not suited for the rolling bloodbath going on under each basket and saw his minutes limited by Kanter’s effectiveness. Still, 6 and 4 with a block and 2 steals is nothing to shake a stick at and Sean, as ever, was content to do the dirty work in order to help the rest of the team shine.
Bonus Bonus Takeaway: Mack coached circles around Cronin
That’s right, I’m giving away takeaways on this greatest of Xavier holidays! Coach Mack had X ready to compete with UC on the glass and, with their greatest weapon taken away, Cronin responded with... nothing. For the first 28 minutes of the game, UC simply tried to do the same thing they had done to the Alabama States and Western Carolinas of the world, except against at a hostile site against a top 25 opponent. Once the game was well and truly gone, they ratcheted up the pressure and Evans and Cumberland finally started hitting from outside, but it was too little, too late as Cronin was content to watch his original gameplan get blown apart all over the Cintas Center floor before making the necessary changes to be competitive.