Xavier University retains bragging rights as the city’s top team.
No. 12 Xavier took a 16-point lead into halftime against No. 23 Cincinnati, but had to withstand a second-half run to pull out a 65-55 win Saturday in the Skyline Chili Crosstown Shootout.
The emotional win in front of 10,617 fans at the Cintas Center moved Xavier to 10-0, matching its best start. The Musketeers have won seven of the last nine matchups with Cincinnati and eight of the last 11.
“That was about as uncomfortable of a 16-point lead as I’ve experienced,” Mack said. “I thought we earned everything we could in that first half, but I think you saw more of Cincinnati’s team in the second half, their ability to really stymie us.”
Xavier used an eight-rebound advantage on the glass and eight turnovers by the Bearcats (8-2) to take a 42-26 lead into halftime, but Farad Cobb’s 3-pointer to open the second haf sparked a 10-0 run for Cincinnati, which made it a six-point game three minutes in.
Cincinnati hung with the Muskies the rest of the way, even drawing within five points with less than 11 minutes to go. However, Xavier switched back to a 1-3-1 zone that gave the Bearcats trouble inside, and a pair of turnovers led to a 7-0 run from which Cincinnati could never recover. It was just the second time the teams have met while ranked, the first since 1993-94.
“The rebounding disparity at halftime that we were proud of in the locker room was completely obliterated in the second half,” Mack said. “We felt like taking care of the ball and rebounding were the two biggest factors, and I know we didn’t answer the challenge in the rebounding department the second half.
“We were fortunate, though, even though we could not figure out what to do on offense, we did not turn the ball over, and that was quite honestly the only thing that saved us from it being a tougher game that could have gone either way down the stretch.”
The Bearcats out-rebounded the Musketeers 20-12 in the second half but recorded 16 turnovers, compared to Xavier’s 10.
“Xavier out-played us,” Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. “They have a really good team. I was really proud of how our guys responded in the second half. … But ultimately, you’re not going to beat a team with 16 turnovers. You’re just not going to have any chance to win. We didn’t give ourselves a chance the way we didn’t protect the ball. That’s rule No. 1 on the road against real teams. They’ve got a real team.”
Xavier showed just how strong of a team it really is by overcoming struggles from their best scorer. Sophomore Trevon Bluiett, who entered the night averaging 15.9 points per game, was held to three points – all in the first half. He was 1-for-8 from the field, including 0-for-2 from behind the arc.
Junior Myles Davis stepped up as usual in the Shootout, though, scoring a game-high 17 points on 7 of 10 shooting. He is 13 of 18 from the field in his three matchups against the Bearcats.
Edmond Sumner, whose dunk after Jalen Reynolds’ steal helped re-energize the Musketeers on their 7-0 run late in the game, finished with 11 points.
“It feels great to get that win today,” Davis said. “Everybody stepped up. Our best scorer didn’t score too well but everyone came in and filled in for him. It was just fun out there. The atmosphere was amazing, everything was just great.”
Xavier didn’t give the Bearcats much of a chance for an inside game in the first half, but Cincinnati came out driving hard to the basket against a man defense in the second half.
Four players reached double figures in scoring for Cincinnati, including 13 from Octavius Ellis, 11 each from Shaq Thomas and Cobb and 10 from Troy Caupain.
“We got out-played, and we got sick of it, and our guys came out,” Cronin said of the second half. “There was nothing magical. … We did a much better job in a lot of things in the second half.”
Cincinnati just couldn’t sustain the effort it took to battle back. The Bearcats recorded eight second-half turnovers, most in the final 10 minutes.
“Basketball is a game of runs so we knew they were going to make a run,” said Remy Abell, who added nine points for Xavier. “We knew they hadn’t given us their best shot yet. Coming out of halftime, I feel like they just gave us their best shot, and we did a good job of withstanding the run and staying together as a team and playing together.”
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