CINCINNATI (AP) — For the first time in four years, Cincinnati came away with local bragging rights. And it sure felt good.
Jacob Evans III scored 21 points and led No. 19 Cincinnati’s second-half surge to an 86-78 victory over No. 24 Xavier on the Bearcats’ home court Thursday night. The emphatic comeback ended Xavier’s streak of three straight wins in their annual crosstown rivalry game.
“It’s big to beat the guys across the street,” said forward Gary Clark, who had 13 points and 11 rebounds.
The Bearcats (18-2) got their 11th straight win by overcoming Trevon Bluiett’s incredible shooting performance — 12 of 15 from the field, including 9 of 11 from beyond the arc, for a career-high 40 points, the second-most ever by a Cincinnati opponent.
“I’m definitely excited,” said Cincinnati point guard Troy Caupain, who had 16 points and five assists. “I don’t even know what to say. I’m ready to jump out of my chair for real.”
Cincinnati dominated up front as Xavier (14-6) got very little out of its front line. The Bearcats controlled the boards 42-33 and scored 30 points off their 19 offensive rebounds.
“Man, we had some soft guys in the interior tonight,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said. “We couldn’t match their effort. We couldn’t match their intensity.”
Bluiett tied the school record for 3s in a game. His 40 points were the second-most ever against Cincinnati, one shy of Dell Curry’s total for Virginia Tech in 1985-86.
“Once you get a couple to fall in, you’ve got all that adrenalin going,” Bluiett said. “Once you get a few to fall in, it’s like the rim is as big as the ocean. I felt every shot I was taking would go in.”
Bluiett took the game over in the first half, making all eight of his shots — six from beyond the arc — as the Musketeers went ahead 44-36. Bluiett also made all four of his free throws for 26 points in the half, one shy of his career high.
He kept it going, making his first two shots in the second half — both 3s — before missing on his 11th attempt. That’s when Cincinnati started going inside and put together a 15-2 run for its first lead since early in the game. Jarron Cumberland’s three-point play made it 72-63 with 6 minutes left.
Xavier: The Musketeers didn’t get much outside of Bluiett. They came in ranked 15th nationally in rebounding margin at 7.6 per game, but got pushed around. Forwards RaShid Gaston and Sean O’Mara were a combined 0 of 7 with seven rebounds. Point guard Edmond Sumner, playing with a brace on his injured left shoulder, was 1 of 7 with six points.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats’ 11-game winning streak is their longest since they took 15 in a row in 2013-14. They have won 20 straight home games, their third-longest streak since their arena opened in 1989. Their last home court loss was to Temple on Dec. 29, 2015.
Xavier was No. 7 in the preseason poll, but the loss to its crosstown rival leaves the Musketeers in danger of falling out of the Top 25 for the first time this season. Cincinnati has been ranked for eight straight weeks, with No. 19 its best spot.
It was only the third time in a series dating to 1928 that both teams were ranked. Xavier had won the two previous such games and was 8-0 all-time when ranked in the rivalry game.
T ON EVANS
Evans got a technical foul in the first half, leading to two free throws by Bluiett. It was the only technical in the game.
Pirates infielder Josh Harrison, Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco and outfielder Billy Hamilton, and Bengals punter Kevin Huber were at the game.
The Musketeers play St. John’s at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. They beat the Red Storm 97-82 at the Cintas Center on Jan. 7.
The Bearcats host South Florida on Sunday, having won six straight in the series.