Twitter recap: Cincy shoots just 33%, pulls away in 2nd half thanks to Xavier TOs. Kilpatrick leads way w/25. Nightmare for XU shooting, even at FT line.
Ugly encore. The last time these two teams duked it out (literally) produced an ugly, albeit memorable, ending—a nasty skirmish that bloodied one player and led to steep suspensions handed down on several others. The rematch didn’t wait as long for its unpleasant moment. It was plain ugly from start to finish. Xavier converted just 2 of its 13 3-point field goal attempts on the night; worse yet, the Musketeers finished 3 of 14…from the free throw line. The Musketeers were sloppy (15 turnovers), couldn’t hit shots and struggled mightily even to get worthwhile looks. Cincy wasn’t any more pleasant itself, settling for too many ill-advised perimeter shots, especially in the first half, while shooting 5-of-24 from long range. Forget you ever saw this one.
Turning point: Sean Kilpatrick came alive early in the second half after gunning his way through an out-of-control first half. Kilpatrick began attacking the rim, rather than settling, and his team slowly, but steadily flexed its might on the boards. Injuries to Semaj Christon and Dee Davis—both cramping-related certainly contributed to Cincy’s late charge—but the game-changing moment happened even before that in the second half.
Why Cincinnati won: The Bearcats picked up tempo in the second half, forced a plethora of turnovers and utilized their athleticism advantage on the perimeter. Kilpatrick got going and the team didn’t look back. Having a shot-blocking maestro like Cheikh Mbodj certainly added to Xavier’s struggles. The Musketeers couldn’t muster anything offensively, and Cincinnati’s defense—anchored by Mbodj down low—was one of several big reasons why.
Why Xavier lost: Turnovers, couldn’t hit free throws, Brad Releford couldn’t hit shots (or defend) and Travis Taylor was the lone pulse offensively. Christon missing most of the second half with cramps and Davis playing through them certainly handicapped the Musketeers, but Chris Mack’s team was as lost even with the backcourt duo on the floor.
Change of scenery. Perhaps shifting the Crosstown Classic to a neutral floor wasn’t a bad idea after all. The atmosphere at U.S. Bank Arena was charged, and the split crowd added a unique dimension to the rivalry absent during the former home-and-home format. Count me as one in favor of a neutral environment again the next time these two teams meet.
What’s next for Cincinnati. A tune-up on Saturday against Wright State at home before No. 16 New Mexico comes calling a week from Thursday. Cincy hasn’t faced a difficult non-conference schedule to date, so the Lobos should provide the Bearcats their first worthwhile test before Big East play beckons
What’s next for Xavier. A Saturday matinee against Wofford before a date in Knoxville with Tennessee one week later.