Thursday night Fifth Third Arena was a mad house during the 2017 edition of the Crosstown Shootout. As early as an hour before the game the arena was filling up, including a full student section. Over 13,400 were in attendance. The Ruckus, local celebrities, former players, Oscar, a bunch of free black UC shirts, Skyline – what more could you ask for?
First things first. Trevon Bluiett was absolutely on fire for Xavier. At the half, he was 8-8 with 26 points, including a ridiculous 3 at the buzzer. At that point, X was shooting 66.7% from beyond the arch, yet the score was still just 44-36, Xavier. UC was able to limit all other Musketeers, including Edmond Sumner. And make no mistake about it, both of those guys will be in the NBA soon enough.
UC did not make any adjustments at halftime other than simply to play harder defense and turn up the intensity. The Bearcats did just that. In the second half, X shot the ball just 26.7%. For the game, UC outscored Xavier in the paint, 34-12. Cincinnati had 30 second-chance points to Xavier’s 4. Overall, both team limited turnovers and fast break points. This was a half-court game, which greatly benefited UC.
In the post-game press conference, Chris Mack opened-up by stating X “got their asses kicked on the glass.” He was a true professional, complementing Mick Cronin. Coach Cronin said the second half D won the game. Both are true.
Another huge component that cannot be understated– Jarron Cumberland is an absolute beast. Mick saved him for the second half. Midway through, he went on a streak, scoring 15 much-needed points. Although coach Mack said he accounted for Cumberland on the scouting report, Cumberland simply showed out for this game. Being a local guy, this game was special for Jarron. Troy Caupain noticed this on the court, mentioning this was the first time he’s ever seen Cumberland talk trash. He was the X factor and stretched the 1-3-1 Xavier zone to its breaking point.
UC ended the game with 5 players in double figures – talk about freaking balance. Gary Clark secured 11 boards. Kyle Washington added 4 blocks. The Bearcats did not need to cross their fingers and pray for a great night from downtown. UC played great defense, rebounded the ball, selected good shots, and scored in the paint. This game could not have gone better.
This game showed Cincinnati’s depth. Xavier is a great team. This was a huge game. In a back-and-forth battle, UC came out on top. Moving forward, we hope UC earns the respect they deserve and catapult into at least the top 15, after winning 11 games in a row. The Cats haven’t lost since the Butler road game on December 10th last year. The AAC gets a bad rap, but the Crosstown Shootout showed that UC can not only compete, but beat great teams. It’s time to put some respect on it, right Birdman?
Next up UC faces South Florida at home on Sunday at 4 pm.
By Andy Smith