The Cincinnati Gardens opened in 1949. Boasting 11,000 seats, it was the seventh largest arena in the nation at the time of completion. Serving most notably as the home of the NBA’s Cincinnati Royals and the Bearcats, the arena hosted a handful of legends over the years, the most notable of which would be Oscar Robertson.
As time passed, the arena slid into a state of disrepair. Recently there was talk about the Bearcats playing out the 2017–18 season in the building, but that potential plan seems to have fallen by the wayside as the property was purchased by The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority in June, closed in July, and scheduled for demolition later this year.
Before we say our final goodbye, I took a look at the best Bearcats games played in the legendary arena.
5. March 9, 1949: Cincinnati 57 — Xavier 46
The Bearcats knock off crosstown rival Xavier in the first matchup between the teams at Cincinnati Gardens. It was the 7th overall meeting, and the first considered a home game for the Bearcats. The win gave the Bearcats a 4–3 series lead, and they haven’t trailed in the overall series since.
4. February 17, 1959: #6 Cincinnati 102 — Miami (OH) 73
Oscar Robertson unloaded an absurd 43 points, 21 rebounds, and 10 assists to slide past Jack Twyman into #1 on UC’s all-time scoring list. He’ll remain there forever.
3. February 23, 1949: Cincinnati 49 — #11 Butler 44
In the first basketball game played at the Gardens, the Bearcats erased a six-point halftime deficit to beat 11th-ranked Butler. Guard Al Rubenstein led the way with 17 points as the Bearcats kept pace in the MAC by holding butler to 23% shooting in a victory over the conference leader. The Bearcats would go on to finish 23–5 for the first 20-win season in program history. They also broke into the AP rankings for the first time, peaking at #13. Per the Indianapolis Star, they “decided” to play this game in four quarters instead of two halves. I don’t know what that’s about.
2. March 4, 1958: #3 Cincinnati 70 — #8 Dayton 66
The Gardens list a capacity in the mid-11,000s. 15,011 fans packed in to watch the Bearcats fend off Dayton, the largest crowd in the history of the arena. The AP made sure to note that Oscar Robertson was “limited to 27 points.” He was kinda good.
1. February 25, 1954: Bearcats 66 — #1 Duquesne 52
Duquesne was 21–0. It was the only time in program history an unranked Bearcats team beat #1. Cincinnati’s Jack Twyman — who grew up in Pittsburgh and was originally committed to Duquesne — lead the way with 21 as the Bearcats held their opposition to 32% shooting.
[Originally published June 15, 2016.]