Another edition of the intense crosstown rivalry between the University of Cincinnati (UC) and Xavier University is in the books, as the Musketeers remain undefeated at 6-0, triumphing over the Bearcats for a second consecutive year with a final score of 77-69.
Despite a minimal number of fans in attendance, the lack of people certainly didn't make for a lack of energy. Throughout the game, there was a plentiful amount of lead changes and ties until the final minutes.
There weren't many standout performances on either team, as it was more-so a collective team effort for both Xavier and Cincinnati. The Bearcats had three players finish with 10+ points: Keith Williams (18), David Dejulius (16) and Rapolas Ivanauskas (10). As did Xavier: Paul Scruggs (20), Zach Freemantle (16) and Nate Johnson (10).
After Williams drained the first three-pointer of the game early on, it looked like the Bearcats could be in for a much better shooting performance than their season debut against Lipscomb. However, that was not the case in the first half, although it was slightly improved in the second half.
UC entered the second half 1-8 from deep and finished the night 5-21, draining buckets from deep to keep them in it, including back to back three-pointers from both Rapolas Ivanauskas and sophomore Jeremiah Davenport at separate crucial moments.
On the other hand, Xavier enjoyed a successful shooting performance throughout, going 7-18 from deep and shooting over 50% in total. Those great shooting numbers extended over to the free-throw line, as Xavier went to the line an eye-grabbing 25 times, making 20 of them.
"Bottom line is, you can't give up 52% from the field in both halves," said head coach John Brannen post-game. "Allow them to get to the line 25 times, [allow them] to shoot the point-blank shots they were shooting, and expect any kind of success."
That free throw success was not something to be shared with the Bearcats. They went 10-15 from the line, including a crucial moment in which Williams stepped up to the line with just over a minute left in the game only to miss both free throws, letting the Musketeers retain a 4-point lead, which they would later extend to close out the game.
"I messed up," said Williams post game. "I can't do that. But it's just a learning experience right now. We just have to move on, it's game two for us, we can't hang our heads. We got to relax, move on, play better."
Although Williams got off to a blazing start in the game, scoring each of the Bearcat's first seven points on 3-3 shooting, those three buckets turned out to be half of his made shots on the night. Emerging as the team's go-to scoring option, the ball was entrusted with Williams late in the game, but the senior took several ill-advised shots that ended up burying the Bearcats.
Senior Chris Vogt also started the game well but ended up finishing with only six points and one rebound before fouling out near midway in the second half.
"[He's] 7'1" and 260 pounds," said Brannen. "For him to have one rebound, that can't happen."
Cincinnati next hosts Furman University on Dec. 9 at 5 p.m. in Fifth Third Arena. The game will be available to watch on ESPN+.