The Cincinnati Bearcats are in the midst of a three-game losing streak against the Xavier Musketeers. That’s what you’d call no bueno. UC still holds a 49-34 edge in the all-time series with the X, but the gap is closing, with Xavier winning seven of the last nine meetings, including a 65-55 triumph last season at the Cintas Center.
But let’s not focus on the negative. Instead, let’s travel back in time and remember when UC last took home a victory in the Crosstown Shootout.
The journey back isn’t that far, just to December of 2012. (Sigh). This was the Shootout after the brawl. In the previous season, tensions boiled over and led to punches being thrown on the court, suspensions being divvied out and an immortal press conference quote being dropped. In that game, Xavier was ranked No. 8 in the country and showed it, winning the game 76-53, marking the largest margin of victory in the rivalry since 1965.
Again, no more negative.
I’ll let Michael Scott set up the next matchup, the one we’re here to focus on.
In its final year in the Big East, UC came rolling into the Crosstown Shootout on Dec. 19, 2012 with a perfect 10-0 record and the No. 11 ranking in the AP Top 25. The Bearcats had just dispatched of Marshall and had wins against Iowa State, Oregon and Alabama to their credit at that point. On the other side, Xavier was 7-2, with losses to Pacific and Vanderbilt on the docket.
Things did not start all that well for the Bearcats, who were the “home team” in a game that took place at US Bank Arena. UC had only nine field goals in the first half and trailed 24-22 at halftime. It was the lowest scoring first period for the Bearcats up to that point and, during that first 20 minutes, the first time they had trailed by more than three points. Panic seeped in a bit.
But the second half was a totally different story thanks in large part to Sean Kilpatrick. Held to seven points on 3-of-12 shooting in the first half, Kilpatrick turned it all around and netted 18 of his game-high 25 points over the final 20 minutes. Kilpatrick was also aggressive on defense and on the glass, tallying seven rebounds and four steals. Turnovers helped build the gap between the two teams, as UC had a 19-13 scoring edge off of takeaways.
Cashmere Wright and JaQuan Parker were right there with Kilpatrick in the backcourt. Wright netted 15 points to go with six rebounds, four assists and two steals while Parker finished with 11 points. In addition, five of his six rebounds came on the offensive glass. Speaking of that, UC had a 47-37 edge in rebounds.
The interior was controlled by Cheikh Mbodj, who made up for a poor night from Justin Jackson (held scoreless, fouled out after 18 minutes) by blocking four shots to go with five boards.
Xavier shot itself in the foot at the foul line, making only 3-of-14 free throws and even though Travis Taylor had a nice game (12 points, 10 rebounds), UC controlled this one, well at least after intermission.
What can that win tell us about Thursday’s game? Not a ton since the rosters are entirely different. Still, there are some things that can be gleaned from it.
UC had an edge in the paint that proved extremely helpful and the Bearcats will need it once again on Thursday. With Kyle Washington and Gary Clark in the starting lineup and Tre Scott and Nysier Brooks providing length off the bench, UC has the size to do it, but its worth noting that Xavier is 15th in the country in rebounding margin, while UC is 49th.
In addition to winning the rebounding battle, UC blocked eight shots and forced 15 turnovers in the last win against Xavier. Those aforementioned post players should keep the rim protected, as the Bearcats rank 22nd in the country in blocked shots (108), while Troy Caupain, Jacob Evans and Kevin Johnson are averaging more than one steal per contest. Keeping the pressure up and denying close looks against a pretty mediocre three-point shooting team is a nice recipe for a UC win.
However, UC can’t fall into an offensive pit itself, which means someone (or some ones) need to fill in where Kilpatrick shone. Caupain has been heating up recently, but Evans is the player on the roster most likely to erupt for a 25-point game.
What this all means is that the pieces are in place for UC to replicate that win from four years ago. Execution will decide if those pieces yield the same result.