Throughout the history of the Crosstown Shootout various players have placed their stamp of authority on different renditions of the rivalry. Lenny Brown, Kevin Frey, Lloyd Price, David West, Dee Davis, Edmond Sumner, and countless others have provided performances or moments that will be cherished by Xavier fans as long as this game is played. Tonight, there was one person on Xavier’s roster playing in what will certainly be his only ever Crosstown Shootout. Having used four seasons of eligibility rewriting the shooting record books at Rice, Quincy Olivari joined Xavier for one last go around in the college game, one final shot at dancing, and one chance to put his name in the annals of the greatest rivalry in college basketball. And boy did he take it.
After Xavier took a 35-27 lead into the half off the back of a swarming defensive display in the first 20 minutes, UC rolled out of the break to the tune of 16-5 in the first 4:19 to take their largest lead of the night and put a Xavier team that needed desperately to stop a losing streak that threatened to derail the season on the ropes. Dayvion McKnight, who we will get to in a moment, provided an immediate response for X before Viktor Lakhin responded to put UC in front. Over the course of the ensuing 4:37, Olivari would pour in 13 points on 4-4 from deep to send Xavier on a surge that would build a lead that would never be threatened within a single possession again. His final shot of the salvo, a quickfire and-one through contact from CJ Fredrick was accompanied by a cupping of the ear toward the crowd to soak in the well earned adulation. As the Bearcats began fouling to extend the game in hopes Xavier’s free throw shooting woes would once again sabotage them, Olivari went 4-4 from the line in the final 1:03 to cap off a 9-9 night to help Xavier see the game out. After his 34 points were not enough against Delaware, Olivari produced a 27 point explosion, 20 of which came in the second half, to make sure that he would be talked about amongst the rest of the Xavier greats in this matchup in years to come.
Olivari wasn’t the only CUSA transfer who came to play tonight
The recognition for Olivari’s performance should do nothing to undermine the praise his backcourt mate earned tonight. Dayvion McKnight flirted with a double double with his 20/8/4 coming with just one turnover and 3 steals in 39 minutes. Against Cincinnati’s ball pressure, he was unflappable for most of the night, did his part to slow down Jizzle James, and put the final nails in UC’s coffin with his three with 1:37 left all bust extinguishing their hopes and his 4-4 from the line in the final 13 seconds doing the rest. Xavier knew that tonight they would need their guards to step up with UC holding the size advantage and McKnight answered the bell with another efficient and hard nosed performance. Speaking of the battle down low, Xavier’s most effective weapon in limiting Viktor Lakhin to an inefficient 17 points on 8-17 from the floor was Abou Ousmane, who posted his first double double of the season with 10/11/2 tearing down 6 of Xavier’s 11 offensive rebounds and, crucially, not turning the ball over in his 24 minutes of play. UC’s best moments on offense came from attacking the paint and Ousmane, while not necessarily dominating, held his own to help Xavier stem the tide and foce the Bearcats into shooting jumpers.
When this team takes care of the ball, they can be really good
Xavier tied their season low for turnovers tonight with 8, matching the mark set in the Saint Mary’s game. Not coincidentally, those also represent Xavier’s two best performances this season. Lazar Djokovic had a couple of instances where he lost the ball going up for a shot and led the way with 4 turnovers as a result, but no other Musketeer turned it over more than once. After getting hammered in points off turnovers in the past two games, Xavier won the battle 12-9 tonight and were able to assist 20 of their 27 baskets on their way to 1.12 points per possession.
This game will probably matter in March
Unlike some previous seasons, this UC team came to Cintas currently a Q1 opponent. Whether they will remain such depends on how they navigate their first season in the Big 12, but with Saint Mary’s sitting at 147th in the NET rankings right now, this easily slots in as Xavier’s best win of the season. The Big East slate currently offers 10 more Q1 opportunities, which is also subject to change, and hopefully this win represents Xavier’s squad turning a corner to better rise to those challenges. Beating UC is fun regardless of if they are any good or not, but it might also end up being important for Xavier’s fate come Selection Sunday.