The city of Cincinnati once again belongs to the Bearcats.
Leading up to Saturday, I legitimately had no idea how the Shootout would play out. While both programs are in the midst of rebuilding seasons, I definitely thought Cincinnati had a more talented roster and were playing at a higher level than Xavier. On the other hand, Xavier always seems to play really well against the Bearcats. Along with that, Chris Mack always had his teams very well prepared to play the Cats, and under his newly hired successor, Travis Steele, I expected the same.
After a solid first half showing, the Bearcats came alive to stretch their halftime lead to double digits, and eventually winning the contest by a score of 62-47.
The final score of this year’s Crosstown Shootout doesn’t tell the entire story. Xavier ended up losing by 15 points, which isn’t a whole lot in basketball. To me, at least, it felt like a blowout. It might have just been the deep threes Jarron Cumberland was hitting and the thunderous dunks Keith Williams was throwing down throughout the game, but man, the Bearcats looked really good.
The defense shined from beginning to end, holding Xavier to only 47 points, the Musketeers’ lowest scoring total since they played the Bearcats back in 2012. They also forced Xavier into shooting 25 shots from behind the arc, only making five of those. To add to that, the Bearcats also shut down Xavier’s top two scoring threats, Naji Marshall and Quinten Goodin, with ease. The two combined to shoot 7-25 from the field, including 2-13 from three, while also turning the ball over five times. In the post game press conference, Goodin told reporters, “I ain’t ever seen no defense like it,” when talking about Xavier’s offensive struggles throughout the game.
While 62 points isn’t exactly anything spectacular, it felt like Cincinnati’s offense had a really nice rhythm from start fo finish. Keith Williams continued his breakout season, scoring 16 points, including four dunks, each of which rocked the newly renovated Fifth Third Arena. While he may have missed all three of his three point attempts, he made up for it by blowing by defenders time and time again, and also tacking on four rebounds and two blocks.
For the second time in Fifth Third Arena, fans saw Jarron Cumberland put on a show. Cumberland put up a team high 19 points, shooting 7-14 from the field and 3-6 from three. From day one in Clifton, Cumberland has lived for big games. Ever since his first Crosstown Shootout, a game in which he helped propel the Bearcats to a 86-78 victory by scoring 15 points off the bench, Cumberland has been a guy that lives for the moment.
While Jarron Cumberland and Keith Williams may have played out of their minds on Saturday, the supporting cast was also a huge reason why the Bearcats came away with a victory. Justin Jenifer tied his career high of nine assists while only committing one turnover. Tre Scott also came up with another big game recording his third double-double of the season with ten points and ten rebounds. With Xavier trying to climb their way back into the game, Trevor Moore nailed a three late in the shot clock that put the momentum back in the Bearcats’ favor. Eliel Nsoseme played his part as well, grabbing seven rebounds off the bench.
While I do have a few complaints about the Cats performance on Saturday, such as Cane Broome only mustering three points on 1-5 shooting, Mick Cronin and his team will have a week to work some of those kinks out before matching up against a ranked Mississippi State team on the road.
All in all, it was a great game to watch if you were a Bearcat fan. Personally, I really can’t stand that school in Norwood, and man, after seeing all of the trash talk from Xavier fans and players alike (talking to you Hanky McSpanky), seeing the Bearcats dominate from start to finish felt as if Christmas had come a few weeks early this year.