A pantheon of great players have contributed to the colorful tapestry that is the Crosstown Shootout. Some of the best to ever include Oscar Robertson, Kenyon Martin, David West and Nick Van Exel. Each of those players is a legend in his own right. Jarron Cumberland’s mythos may be in the early stages, but the freshman penned another striking chapter last night.
With Cincinnati struggling against Xavier, panic began to seep into Fifth Third Arena. Thoughts of “not again”, “this was supposed to be our year” and “come F@#$ing on!” had to have passed through the minds of at least a few fans, if not most, as Xavier built a 44-36 halftime lead on the back of a 10-of-15 three-point shooting effort and an otherworldly performance from Trevon Bluiett. Demons that have been hiding under the surface of UC’s strong season reared their ugly head as well, as the Bearcats wasted chances at the free-throw line.
Luckily, college basketball consists of two halves and, just as luckily, Cumberland came to play in that final 20 minutes.
After managing only two points across nine minutes in the first half, the Bearcats’ biggest recruiting get in years hit big shot after big shot in the second. He made 5-of-7 shots from the floor, including 2-of-4 from three-point range, and even if he still made mistakes (1-of-4 at the free-throw line), its impossible to imagine UC winning its first Crosstown Shootout in four years without Cumberland carrying the load for so much of the last frame.
Jacob Evans deserves credit as well, as he scored 12 points in the second half, while senior leader Troy Caupain had 10 points in the period, including a mammoth triple with just under a minute to play and two key free throws in the final 30 seconds. Still, Cumberland brought the team back from the brink and played way above his station as a freshman.
“(Jarron Cumberland) is a great player. I don’t think they talked about him on their scouting report as what we saw tonight,” Caupain said after the game. “When he got the ball they were kind of one-on-one and let him get to the cup. He’s a big body. We know that he can score. After the first one or two times he got confidence, he was making shots, got an and-one. I knew he was rolling from there.”
Whether or not Xavier head coach Chris Mack and his team expected such an effort from Cumberland, you can be sure they won’t be eager to try to stop him again next year.
“You can see it coming. He has gotten better and better as the year has gone on. I am sure Mick didn’t play him early on not because of his offense but because of his defense,” Mack said. “That’s just a guess, but that happens to most freshmen. But you can see on film the way he has played the last three or four weeks. He gets conference freshman of the week and he is like the terminator, he doesn’t change expression.”
And with that, the legend of the Crosstown Terminator was born.