It’s our city. Still.
The Bearcats protected home court and defended Clifton by reclaiming the Crosstown Shootout rivalry with a resounding 86–78 win over the Xavier Musketeers for their 50th win in series history. Despite putrid free-throw shooting and a historic performance by Trevon Bluiett, the Bearcats used a big second half to assert their dominance and allow their talent to overcome. Here’s what happened:
- Troy Caupain and Kevin Johnson got one. I love Troy to death, and I was starting to picture him leaving Clifton this spring without any kind of tangible proof of his importance to the program. He’s had some big shots and big performances, but when you’re a distributor like Caupain, your legacy doesn’t have the same kind of pop without some signature wins as a senior. Leaving town without a win against Xavier would’ve been an immensely difficult pill to swallow. I’m happy for him and KJ.
- Jarron Cumberland has arrived. Much like Ohio State-Michigan in football, the Crosstown Shootout tends to become a kind of proving ground for the next crop of impact players for each school. Cumberland has certainly had some impressive performances this season, but Thursday night was his breakout. The freshman finished with 15 points and four rebounds in just 21 minutes off the bench, but a lot of what he did last night won’t show up on the box score. A number of those points came during the crucial point in the game where the Bearcats turned a deficit into a substantial lead.
- Xavier got bossed around. They were outscored by 16 in the second half. They got beat 34–12 in the paint. They lost the rebounding battle 42–33. Most remarkably, Cincinnati had the edge in second chance points, 30–4. THIRTY TO FOUR. I’ve never seen that in my life.
- Five Bearcats reached double figures, and the team scored 86 points. What a monumental difference from the way this game usually goes. The Muskies were not ready for a Mick Cronin team that can score.
- The defense overcame a titanic performance to put the clamps on in the second half. Bluiett entered halftime with 26 points and zero missed shots. It looked like one of those nights for the Bearcats, but things shifted after the break. Xavier shot just 27% after the break, and only hit three shots inside the arc. The Bearcats, meanwhile, shot 52% in the second half with 12 baskets inside the arc. Xavier got manhandled.
- History! The new luxury boxes at Fifth Third Arena helped establish a new attendance record as 13,477 people piled into The Shoe for the largest on-campus attendance in Cincinnati basketball history. The arena sold out 137 times before Thursday, but never has a crowd reached that size.
- Streaks! The Bearcats have won 11 games straight, and 20 games in a row at home––the longest streak of the Mick Cronin era. The previous streak ended at 19 games in February 2014 in the Russ Smith Louisville game. Happy we avoided two 19-game streaks snapped by brutal rivalry losses.
- I’ve got no problems after last night. Just keep winning.