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Xavier leads plucky mid-major wire to wire in Crosstown Blowout

Xavier came out and metaphorically punched UC in the mouth early and the Bearcats never recovered.

NCAA Basketball: Cincinnati at Xavier
Kaiser Gates, (Kaiser Gates!), owned the paint.
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not often that the Crosstown Shootout is never really in dount. That was the case though, today. Xavier came out and scored the first basket, then they scored the second one. After the first half, the question only seemed to be what the margin might be by the end. Xavier dominated this game from start to finish on their way to a 13 point win.

Tyrique Jones set the mood early by showing absolutely no fear against Cincinnati’s vaunted combination of forwards in Gary Clark and Kyle Washington. Jones caught an early pass from a high-low post entry and finished it off with Clark hanging on his back like Superman’s cape. On the way back down the court he flexed his right arm and looked at it questioningly, almost as if he wondered if he would need it. Minutes later Jones was once again flexing his arms on the way down the court after once again shredding off the attention to both Clark and Washington. Cincinnati’s forwards came into the game with the reputation for toughness, but it was Xavier‘s forwards who owned the paint early and anytime it mattered.

It wasn’t just power in the paint that put Xavier over the top though. Kerem Kanter spent the first half playing like a slightly stockier version of Kevin Durant, splashing threes and grabbing rebounds all over the court. Trevon Bluiett poured in 28 on 5-10 from behind the arc. JP Macura’s efforts may not show in the stat line as well as they usually do, but he was a constant minutes on defense with active hands and, a relatively active mouth again. By the game’s end, he was encamped in the head of the mentally fragile UC head coach.

We can’t go any farther without mentioning Kaiser Gates. Gates was at his absolute best today scoring 10 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, and imposing fear on the supposed interior warrior Gary Clark. It was no surprise that Clark was afraid of Tyrique Jones, that’s just good sense, but to watch him continually be outrebounded and outworked by Gates had to come as a surprise to fans of both sides.

There are a lot of stories to tell in this game. How Quentin Goodin doled out eight assists and came down with five boards, Kerem Kanter finishing with 17, and how Xavier, supposedly the finesse team, absolutely dominated the glass. What may be the most telling stat of all though, is this: after Xavier took a 23 point 68-45 lead, UC attempted a frantic comeback that briefly had their fans thinking this was a contest. It wasn’t though. When Xavier was at most “vulnerable,” their win probability had plunged all the way to... 96%. When it mattered, the power conference team flexed its muscle and continued the beating until even after the final buzzer sounded.