Game Notes: The 2011 Crosstown Shootout
Xavier’s heads bloodied but unbowed after brawl-infested victory over Cincinnati.
by Eddie Maisonet / @edthesportsfan
The No. 8 team in the country did what it was supposed to do to a team in disarray, as the Xavier Musketeers played arguably their best game of the season and dismantled the Cincinnati Bearcats 76-53 in the 2011 edition of the Crosstown Shootout. Xavier out-manned, out-flanked, and straight up ambushed Cincinnati at the Cintas Center, as the dynamic back court of Tu Holloway (17 points, 6 assists) and Mark Lyons (19 points, 4 assists) proved too tough for Mick Cronin’s team. While Yancy Gates put up 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Bearcats, his squad never had a consistent answer for Xavier’s defense and ability to get to the rim.
Of course, that’s not what folks will remember from this game, so let me get out some of the obvious stuff now.
After a full 24 hours (that we can account for) of jawing back and forth, late in the fourth quarter the brawl broke out. From what started since the tip of the game, to Mark Lyons jawing with the entire Bearcats bench towards the end of the first half during play, to the end shenanigans with the leader of the Muskies Tu Holloway squared up with Ge’Lawn Guyn, a bench player for the Bearcats.
We’ll never know the words that were exchanged between the two, and truthfully it doesn’t matter. What happened next does, when Guyn mushed Holloway in the face and chaos ensued.
You do anything harmful to an opposing team’s star player, expect some retribution to come your way. Maybe Holloway deserved it after yapping with the other team, but like in any situation where trash talk is prevalent and competition against your rival, don’t dish out what you can’t handle in return. As soon as Guyn mushed Holloway, freshman Dezmine Wells pushed Guyn off his teammate and the Xavier roster rode to defend their captain
That’s what a team is supposed to do, rally behind their captain.
So yes, some folks will point to Xavier center Kenny Frease getting chin-checked by Yancy Gates as a sign of being soft or getting some type of revenge. Hitting someone in the face while they’re trying to break-up a fight is pretty cowardly, and while having a black eye and needing a few stitches will cause temporary pain there can be a supreme sense of satisfaction knowing you caused someone to resort to throwing a punch while dealing with a 23-point loss to your rival as a senior.
Of course, one would (and should) question Xavier head coach Chris Mack for having his best players in the game with a 20+ point lead. Maybe he was allowing his seniors to relish in the victory, but as my good buddy Ken said quite eloquently, “A coach, of all the folks on the floor not named refs, has to be able to gauge the temperature of the floor. Mack didn’t.”
With a game that heated, with the magnitude of the rivalry and playing in a hostile environment, Mack has to know better.
So how do we feel about this Xavier team now? An 8-0 record with a No. 8 ranking in the national polls and a demonstrative victory over a quality Big East team should make us believe that this team is legit to make a serious run…right? You’ll hear that this game is a blemish on Tu Holloway’s legacy at Xavier, that Mark Lyons is a goon and other things that don’t really matter.
What matters is that this Xavier might have the one thing that we don’t usually expect to see from top teams from big time conferences….toughness.
“They were disrespecting us before the game. One of their guys called me out and said I couldn’t start for them. I was saying, ‘This is my city here.’ One of their guys put his hands in my face,” Holloway said. “We’re a bunch of gangsters, but we’re not thugs. We’re tough guys. We’re not gonna let someone else kick our face in.”
Yes, suspensions will be handed down. Discipline will be enforced. Chastising will occur. Coach Mack will let his team have it, but I’d bet there’s a bit of encouragement in seeing his team this unified. When things get tough you either stand tall or you stand down. Xavier stood tall against a rival who is perceived to be bigger and tougher, but not on this day. Holloway, Lyons, Wells and the rest of the Xavier squad took the bully’s best punch and will be better off for it in the long run. Even with a black eye.