In one of the nation's best college basketball rivalries, the No. 11 Cincinnati Bearcats knocked off the Xavier Musketeers on Wednesday night by a score of 60-45.
There were no brawls in what is now being dubbed the Crosstown Classic, but that doesn't mean these two schools—which are just over three miles apart from each other—didn't put on an intense in-state battle.
The first half saw both squads combine for just 46 points.
With Xavier controlling the pace and packing into the lane on defense, Cincy settled for outside jumpers early in the shot clock and simply couldn't knock them down.
The Musketeers, however, couldn't take advantage on the other end, and even after a horrendous 20 minutes from Mick Cronin's squad, Xavier led by just two.
In the second half, the Bearcats took complete control.
Cincy put on a full-court press and Xavier, unable to handle it, was forced into several turnovers. As a result, the Bearcats were able to get more shots at the rim and pulled out to a comfortable double-digit lead.
Any chance of a comeback for Xavier was squashed when Dee Davis and Semaj Christon, its two ball-handlers and arguably two best players, both came up lame with what appeared to be cramps. Davis eventually fouled out with six minutes to go and Christon couldn't return, leaving Brad Redford to try—key word, try—to beat the press.
In the end, despite shooting 32.3 percent from long range and turning the ball over 14 times, the Bearcats were able to move to 11-0.
Xavier falls to 7-3 with the loss, but proved that its defense will once again make it a threat in a very deep Atlantic 10.
Cincinnati, which was averaging an impressive 1.081 points per possession coming into this one, put forth an ugly first half on the offensive end. The Bearcats scored just 22 points on 9-of-37 shooting and turned the ball over 10 times.
The Musketeers obviously deserve credit, but Cincy's shot selection was also very poor (via ESPN's Stephen Bardo):
Can't believe Cincy's offensive shot selection the last 5 possessions. 0 or one pass and contested jumper. Cronin can't be pleased with vets— Stephen Bardo (@stephenbardo) December 20, 2012
The Sporting News' Michael DeCourcy echoed that statement:
Cincy scored on post touch second time down. Hasn't had as single post touch since.— Michael DeCourcy (@tsnmike) December 20, 2012
Again, though, Xavier, which entered the game as one of the slowest-tempo teams in the nation, controlled the pace and deserves mention for what it was able to do (via DeCourcy):
Xavier doing a terrific job taking tempo away from Cincy with transition D.— Michael DeCourcy (@tsnmike) December 20, 2012
Cincy wasn't prepared for that, but it turned things around in the second half with an aggressive press and an attack-the-basket mentality on the offensive end.
This didn't help Xavier, either (via CBS Sports' Jeff Goodman):
Cincinnati basically with a 5-on-3 advantage right now. Dee Davis hobbling and Brad Redford can't guard.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanCBS) December 20, 2012
To make matters worse, Redford also struggled against the press and Christon, Xavier's other ball handler, came up limp with an injury.
That was more than enough for the Bearcats to pull away.
Player of the Game: Sean Kilpatrick
So, um, ignore his shooting percentage (10-of-28 from the field, 2-of-10 from three-point range).
Kilpatrick, just like the rest of his team, had a dreadful first half as he mostly settled for shots from the outside. But when Cincy took control in the second half, it was because of the talented junior.
The White Plains native got much more aggressive. He drove to the cup and was able to get both easy baskets and trips to the line. Although he was inefficient, his 25 points were extremely important ones.
Moreover, he—along with Cashmere Wright—was a main force of the Bearcats' game-altering press defense, racking up four steals.
The Bearcats will host Wright State on Saturday afternoon before Christmas break while Xavier hosts Wofford on the same day.