To send you off right into the weekend here's another installment of our countdown of the top 10 moments from last year's football/basketball seasons. Falling at #9 is Cincinnati's wins against Xavier and Dayton last season. Wins is too kind of a word. Obliteration is better. Beating rivals (and especially Xavier) is always fun but the way the Bearcats absolutely dismantled the Musketeers and Flyers was sheer brilliance. UC scored plenty of points but it was their defensive mastery that gave Cincinnati fans a peek at what ended up being the #1 ranked scoring defense in the Big East in 2010-11. In these two games, the Bearcats held their opponents to an average of 40 total points. That is just scary good and is a testament to Mick Cronin's emphasis on that half of the court. If the opponent can't get near the basket they usually can't score and the Musketeers and Flyers did little of either when they walked on the court against Cincinnati.
Let's start by taking a look at the game against Dayton since it was played first:
Bearcats dump Dayton (via wcpo)
Out of the two games, the Bearcats' dominance is on better display against the Flyers than the Musketeers. While the fans didn't come out to US Bank Arena downtown to cheer on the the 'Cats, the players didn't upset in putting on a show, especially in their spiffy throw back jerseys. Honestly, the Bearcats could have gotten better competition out of Taft High School. In just twenty minutes of play they had built a 23 point lead and had more than doubled the Flyers' output (19). The Flyers are no slouch either as they're pretty much a lock for a top-5 spot in the Atlantic 10 and continuously make the NIT with the occasional NCAA bid. And the Bearcats held them to 19 points in the first half. The second half was even better as UC held them to only fifteen points. At the end of the night Cincinnati cruised to a 68 - 34 shellacking that sent an early message to other teams that Cincinnati was once again going to be a force to be reckoned with.
If people doubted Cincinnati because of the cupcake nonconference schedule, the game against Xavier made believers out of many of them.
Crosstown Shootout Highlights - 2011 (via uofcincinnati)
At this point in the season Cincinnati had rolled through their nonconference schedule and were sitting pretty at 14 - 0 with a #25 ranking. But the Bearcats were drawing criticism of the weakness of that schedule, which was legitimate, and needed a marquee game to boost their reputation. The Xavier game seemed like the perfect opportunity. Like I mentioned before, I love beating Xavier. One of my first memories of Bearcats basketball was sitting in the Gardens watching UC lose to Xavier when the Bearcats were the #1 ranked team in the country in 1999. I channel that game every year to get geared up for the Crosstown Shootout and I especially took pleasure watching Tu Holloway and company (because he's such a ball hog) looking for answers against the Bearcats last season and finding nothing. It wasn't the stab in the chest blowout that the Dayton game was but instead more of a tortuous slow death at the hands of the good guys. Xavier shot a measly 39% on the night and held Holloway to just 5 points. Calling UC's defense 'shutdown' would have been an insult. The game in general was pretty tight in the first half but Cincinnati's depth showed as they started to build a commanding lead thanks in part to Yancy's heroic step-back jump shots and imposing presence around the rim. They also got a lot of help from Dion Dixon and court leader Cashmere Wright that night. When the dust settled the Bearcats were undefeated at 15 - 0 heading into one of the toughest parts of their schedule. That night, however, they showed the soldout Fifth Third Arena crowd that they were back.
These two games to the untrained eye were merely two rivals going at it for two halves of basketball. But they meant so much more. Cincinnati had been mired in the dark days of the early Mick Cronin rebuilding years and had yet to show that they had returned to their pre-2005 form. The games against Xavier and Dayton sent a message to their nearby rivals that they were in fact back. They also gave fans a glimpse of how dominant Bearcats defense was going to be under Mick Cronin. Overall, if you're a UC fan you couldn't help but get behind a team that performed the way they did in these games.