No. 24 Cincy routs rival Musketeers
Growing up in Cincinnati, power forward Yancy Gates watched the city's crosstown basketball rivalry produce memorable finishes. With one of his best games, he became part of the lore and a lopsided win.
Gates scored a season-high 22 points, and 24th-ranked Cincinnati extended the second-best start in school history, beating Xavier 66-46 on Thursday night to win back the city's backyard bragging rights.
''It was quite obvious that Yancy Gates decided it was time to win the crosstown shootout,'' Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said.
Cincinnati's 15-0 start matches the 1998-99 team for second-best in school history. The latest win was the sweetest yet.
No matter the circumstance, Xavier (8-5) had managed to get the better of its crosstown rival for years. The Musketeers had won three in a row and eight of 11 in the series, which often gets overheated. Xavier's Terrell ''Tu'' Holloway got a technical for throwing an elbow Thursday.
None of the Musketeers could stop Gates, a 6-foot-9, 265-pound power forward who scored most of his points on outside jumpers. He went 10 of 16 from the field and added 14 rebounds, hitting shots from everywhere.
''Definitely one of my best games since I've been in college,'' Gates said. ''In practice, we play around and I hit shots like that. It was like that. I just wasn't playing around.''
Xavier's only consistent scorer was forward Jamel McLean, who had 18 points. Xavier scored its fewest points in seven years.
Holloway, the Musketeers' leading scorer at 21.3 points per game, managed only five on 2-of-13 shooting.
''Sometimes you have tough shooting nights, I guess,'' Holloway said. ''They're a tough, physical team. They made us all work hard to get baskets. They're just a physical team.''
The annual game is one of the city's centerpiece sporting events. Baseball hit king Pete Rose — a Cincinnati native — and Pete Rose, Jr. sat courtside.
This one meant a lot more to the Bearcats, who had home-court advantage, wore throwback uniforms and had a pronounced edge in numbers. Xavier's down to nine scholarship players because of injuries.
For the Bearcats, it came down to credibility. They tore through an easy nonconference schedule — ranked 335th out of 345 Division I teams — in front of a 13,000-seat arena that was less than half full most of the time. They moved into the Top 25 for the first time this week, and drew their first capacity crowd of the season for the annual grudge match.
The Bearcats have lived in Xavier's basketball shadow in recent years. Cincinnati hasn't reached the NCAA tournament since 2005, Bob Huggins' last season as coach. Xavier's been there every year — one of only a dozen teams to make each of the last five NCAA tournaments.
The series' most lopsided win in nine years was a big step in the Bearcats' comeback.
Xavier quieted the crowd by pulling out to a 10-4 lead, dominating upfront. Seven-foot center Kenny Frease had a jumper and a putback over Gates, who grew up in Cincinnati and appreciates the rivalry's lore.
Gates led the Bearcats back, hitting three jumpers during a 16-4 run that put Cincinnati ahead to stay, pounding his chest after one of them.
''I don't think that's his game, shooting fadeaways,'' McLean said. ''He was hot today. We just caught Yancy on a hot night.''
Gates also had the most emphatic play, blocking Frease's baseline shot and sending the brawny center sprawling on the floor. His fast-break layup made it 26-15 with 2:35 left in the half. He had 12 points in the half, making six of his seven shots.
After Xavier got the lead down to five, Gates hit a fadeaway 17-foot jumper that sparked an 11-2 run and pushed the lead to 46-31. Holloway got a technical during the run for throwing an elbow under the basket.
Gates' rebound and putback made it 58-41 with six minutes left, taking all the drama out of the final minutes. When he left the game with 36 seconds left, the fans chanted ''Yancy! Yancy!''
''That's always a good feeling,'' Gates said. ''You get a boost when you hear the crowd saying your name. You know you did a good job.''