Xavier beats Cincinnati 59-57 as rivalry returns to campus

CINCINNATI (AP) Back on campus, the city’s college basketball rivalry felt like old times with big runs, a couple of technical fouls, a dramatic finish.

And Xavier came away with another one.

Freshman Trevon Bluiett made two free throws with 11.5 seconds left – his only points of the game – and Xavier rallied for a 59-57 win over Cincinnati on the Bearcats’ court Wednesday night.

The game returned to campus three years after a brawl in the closing seconds at Xavier left the series in question. The schools moved the bragging-rights game to a downtown arena for the last two seasons, trying to take some of the hard edge off.

The Bearcats (17-9) sold out their 13,176-seat arena for the first time this season, underscoring the intensity of the rivalry.

Everyone was on their feet for the finish.

”I love it, to be honest,” said Xavier senior point guard Dee Davis, who scored 16 points. ”My first time playing at Cincinnati. Being here and having the fans involved in the game, not a neutral court game, it was an unbelievable feeling, especially with the win.”

The Musketeers (17-10) let a 12-point lead slip away before rallying in the final minute for their sixth win in the last eight games between the rivals.

Bluiett’s free throws made it 58-57 with 11.5 seconds left. Farad Cobb missed a long jumper that could have given Cincinnati the lead. Xavier’s Myles Davis got the rebound and made a free throw with a half-second left to finish it.

Dee Davis matched his career high by making all of his five shots from beyond the arc. He also had eight assists. Davis came in shooting only 26 percent from beyond the arc, a career low.

”Certain guys shy away from the big moments, certain guys step up,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said. ”That’s what Dee did. That’s what you need in this type of game.”

Gary Clark had 14 points for Cincinnati, which trailed most of the game. The Bearcats got an open shot for the lead at the end, but Cobb missed.

”We found him,” point guard Troy Caupain said. ”We got the shot we wanted. It didn’t fall.”

Xavier’s long-ranging shooting made the difference at the outset. The Musketeers went 8 of 15 from beyond the 3-point arc in the first half and made their last seven shots for a 36-24 lead.

Cincinnati forward Octavius Ellis is the only player left from the brawl, one of eight players suspended in all – four from each team. Ellis and Xavier’s Jalen Reynolds got technicals for exchanging words in the second half on Wednesday.

Ellis led Cincinnati’s late comeback. He had a layup and a tip-in that tied it at 53 with 1:56 to go. Ellis then blocked Dee Davis’ shot, and Clark’s basket put the Bearcats up 55-53.

TIP-INS

Xavier: The Musketeers’ 36 points in the first half matched the most that Cincinnati had allowed in an opening half on its home court all season.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats have held 29 of their last 30 opponents under 70 points, the lone exception a 75-59 loss at Temple on Feb. 10.

NO CRONIN

Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin watched from home on Wednesday, still recovering from a problem with a blood vessel that has prevented him from coaching games since December.

GAME OF OPPOSITES

Cincinnati’s defense allows only 55.2 points per game, the seventh-best mark nationally. Xavier’s offense leads the Big East with 76.5 points per game.

UP NEXT

Xavier hosts No. 19 Butler on Saturday, and then finishes the regular season at St. John’s, at home against No. 6 Villanova, and at Creighton.

Cincinnati visits Houston on Saturday night. The Bearcats finish the regular season at home against Central Florida, on the road against Tulane and Tulsa, then at home versus Memphis.

Follow Joe Kay on Twitter: http://twitter.com/apjoekay