Xavier beats Cincinnati 59-57 as rivalry returns to campus
CINCINNATI (AP) — 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, another dramatic finish in the crosstown rivalry.
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.
The game returned to campus three years after a brawl in the closing seconds at Xavier left the long-time 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.
Everyone was on their feet for the finish.
Bluiett’s free throws made it 58-57, and 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 to finish it.
Dee Davis led Xavier with 16 points, eight assists and a season-high five 3-pointers.
Gary Clark had 14 points for Cincinnati, which trailed most of the game.
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. Dee Davis made all four of his shots from beyond the arc.
Cincinnati forward Octavius Ellis is the only player left from the brawl. He was 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.
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 Gary Clark’s basket put the Bearcats up 55-53.
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.
Both young teams were in ruts — Xavier had lost three of its last five, Cincinnati its last two games — and needed a win to embellish their NCAA tournament possibilities.
It was a matchup of very opposite styles. 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.
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.
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.