Game Notes: Crosstown Shootout Edition
Because you can’t bring a knife to a gunfight.
by Eddie Maisonet, III / @edthesportsfan
In North Carolina the big game is Duke vs. North Carolina. In Kentucky it’s Louisville vs. Kentucky. Down in the Show Me state they get down with Mizzou vs. Kansas. But around these parts, in the Queen City (Ohio version), it’s nothing but the Crosstown Shootout in Cincinnati, OH.
You see, this was my first time ever attending the fabled Crosstown Shootout, and truth be told, I wasn’t all that excited about it at first. I mean don’t get me wrong, I grew up being a fan of Cincinnati Bearcats basketball, and I’m not even from Cincinnati. From the days of Danny Fortson, Nick Van Exel, Ruben Patterson, Kenyon Martin and the legend that is Bob Huggins, there was something about how the Bearcats carried it on the basketball court that’s always been cool to me. (Including the dope Jordan Brand apparel deal they had) Xavier on the other hand, had to grow on me. One of the elite mid-majors who shuns any thought of being called a mid-major, they’ve always had dudes who were live. Byron Larkin, James Posey, David West and the likes.
But what we got on Thursday was simply a case of one team being fully loaded and another team being bombed out and depleted like Afghanistan. (Chappelle)
Cincinnati out-manned, out-flanked, and straight up ambushed Xavier on Thursday night with a resounding 66-46 victory. The biggest gun in the fight was UC big Yancy Gates as his final line of 22 points, 14 rebounds, 2 blocks doesn’t even begin to factor in how much he owned the paint on both the offensive and defensive end of the floor. The homegrown kid played one of the biggest games of his collegiate career for the Bearcats, and the UC faithful want to see more performances like this out of him.
For X, it’s almost sad to see where they are right now. We remember this Musketeer team firing on all cylinders last season, fully loaded with both star power (Jordan Crawford and Tu Holloway) and complementary role players who were able to contribute at a moment’s notice. We remember how they obliterated the A-10 last season, and most importantly we remember that epic Sweet 16 double-overtime match-up between X and Big 12 runner-up Kansas State.
What we saw last night was a humbling experience of what this team truly is this season. A handcuffed one.
Xavier coach Chris Mack will never use this as an excuse, but the reality is between the loss of incoming frosh Justin Martin (ineligible for season), freshman wing Jay Canty (stress fracture in right foot, out 4-6 weeks) and sharpshooter Brad Redford (ACL tear, out for season) and the lack of consistency from starters Kenny Frease and Dante Jackson, Xavier just doesn’t have a lot of options out on the floor.
UC held X to 39 percent shooting from the floor, as Holloway struggled mightily with a 2-13 effort and 5 points. Although the only consistent scorer for Xavier was “Uncle Jamel” McLean. (Trust me, he just has that Uncle game. You know, nothing but pump fakes and extreme use of the pivot foot.) McLean’s 18 points and 6 rebounds wasn’t enough. UC thoroughly dominated the boards as Gates and Dion Dixon helped give the Bearcats a 34-24 edge on the glass. Most importantly, the Bearcats moved the ball around (13 assists, 8 turnovers) while Xavier seemed to force everything (4 assists, 13 turnovers). Credit coach Mick Cronin having his boys ready to play and having his defense turned up.
At the end of the day, an undefeated team in January should beat this Xavier team. At 15-0 and a No. 25 national ranking, Cincinnati needed a victory over a team with a national profile (because, trust me, that win over my Oklahoma Sooners, the same Oklahoma that lost to Chaminade in the seventh-place game in Maui doesn’t count) as a confidence boost heading into conference action. What will be interesting to see is whether Yancy Gates can become the big man who Westsiders have dreamed he would be? Can Cashmere Wright and Dion Dixon elevate their play and be counted on to be more than just role players? The Big East is a beast for a reason, and Cronin’s got to get his team to play consistent, quality basketball.
“It was quite obvious that Yancy Gates decided it was time to win the crosstown shootout,” Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said.
Yep, he certainly did.
Eddie Maisonet is a freelance sports writer, blogger and big time hoops fan from Oklahoma who currently resides in Cincinnati. Keep up with Eddie at SLAMonline as well as his blog Ed The Sports Fan and on Twitter.