No. 8 Xavier tops Cincinnati 76-53 after brawl
CINCINNATI (AP) — Eighth-ranked Xavier beat crosstown rival Xavier 76-53 Saturday in a game that featured a steady stream of trash talking and was called with 9.4 seconds left when the teams got into a brawl on court.
Words escalated into shoving and swings as the final seconds ticked down. Both benches cleared and coaches pulled their players away. The referees called it.
The teams traded words as they walked past each other toward the locker rooms at halftime, with the referees stepping between them — a common occurrence in the emotional rivalry.
Mark Lyons scored 19 points, and Tu Holloway led a 12-point run in the first half for Xavier (8-0), which extended their best start in three years and their recent domination of the Bearcats (5-3). Cincinnati went 1 of 16 from behind the arc and trailed by double digits the entire second half.
Yancy Gates led Cincinnati with 18 points and 12 rebounds. The Bearcats shot only 30 percent from the field.
Xavier has won four of the last five, seven of the last 10, and nine of the last 13 games in the city's annual bragging-rights game. The Musketeers had a little extra motivation in this one.
Last season, Cincinnati took advantage of Xavier's injury-depleted roster in a 66-46 victory on the Bearcats' court, the most lopsided score in the series in eight years. Cincinnati geared its defense to stop Holloway, who was only 2 of 13 from the field for five points.
This would be Holloway's last crosstown shootout, and he was determined to prevent Cincinnati from getting its first back-to-back wins in the series since 1995-96.
When the national anthem ended and both teams headed toward their benches, Holloway lingered on the court by himself for a few seconds, head down, eyes closed and soaking in the moment.
He was in the middle of the trash talking at the end, yelling something at the Cincinnati bench before the brawl broke out. After the game was called, he jumped on the scorers' table and celebrated with the crowd.
During the week, Cincinnati's Sean Kilpatrick suggested Holloway wouldn't start if he played for the Bearcats. Whenever Kilpatrick touched the ball, the Xavier student section chanted: "Who's Kilpatrick?"
Kilpatrick finished with 11 points on 3-of-12 shooting.
Xavier was coming off a 73-61 win at Butler on Wednesday night that extended their best start in three seasons. The Bearcats had the week off for exams, giving them time to prepare for the game.
Playing an eighth-ranked team gave the Bearcats a chance to regain some luster.
They reached the NCAA tournament last season for the first time since 2005, when Bob Huggins was coach. They considered their program's rebuilding nearly finished, needing only another successful season to re-establish their national prominence. They got off to a good start, getting ranked in the preseason poll for the first time in eight years.
Then home-court losses to Presbyterian and Marshall in front of small crowds knocked them out of the rankings and raised questions about whether they're capable of an encore.
The start of the game followed the annual pattern — a lot of emotion, a lot of missed shots. Xavier coach Chris Mack got a technical for jumping in the air and arguing against a goal tending call on the Musketeers.
There were eight ties and six lead changes, with neither team ahead by more than four, before Holloway got Xavier rolling. He hit a 3 — his first field goal — to start a 12-point run late in the half. Holloway also came down with a rebound and passed to Lyons for a fastbreak layup during the spurt, which put Xavier in control for good at 34-23.
Holloway had a three-point play during a 9-2 run that opened the second half and made it 43-27. Cincinnati didn't get the lead under 10 points the rest of the way. Justin Martin's 3 made it 56-38 with 9:19 to go, taking the drama out of the game.
Until the final seconds.