(Trent Grayson/ Mr Kentucky)
by Tim Daniel
You know the saying about rivalry games, right? The cliche the better team doesn't always win, throw the records out the window, well even though the favorites won and both teams came into the game with the same records, it was one hell of a fight.
From the beginning of the game, it looked like it was going to be a blowout for Xavier. Zach Freemantle drove straight to the rim for the first basket of the game, a Colby Jones three in transition and a Souley Boum 4-point play all happened before the first media timeout. The Musketeers were ready.
The remaining half was more of the same. The Bearcats would make occasional runs with 4-0 runs, and back-to-back 3's but every time the Cats started to get some momentum, the Musketeers had an answer.
"They came out, they had a great gameplan defensively, you could tell they scouted us well," senior guard David Dejulius said of the Bearcats' offensive woes.
Xavier held their rivals to just 26% from the floor in the half, and also didn't let them find their shot from deep either. DeJulius, who had a game Bearcat fans will remember for a very long time, was not the same player as he ended up being in the second half shooting just 1/7 from the floor in the half.
DeJulius's teammates were not necessarily helping either. Jeremiah Davenport was 1/6, Landers Nolley went into the half with 0 points, and the Bearcats committed nine turnovers. On the other end, the Musketeers were rolling.
Making his crosstown debut, Souley Boum put his stamp on this game from the jump. Boum was not only the leading scorer at the half, but was the only player on each team to score double-digits ending the half with 13 points. Zach Freemantle was at eight points and eight rebounds and the Musketeers were shooting 46% from deep taking a seventeen-point lead into the half.
While the Musketeers were riding high, the Bearcats' locker room got some words from a Bearcat legend to lead them back onto the floor.
"Kenyon Martin came in at halftime and, excuse my language, got on our ass. That's what we needed. He said you got to share, you got to play together and not as individuals, it's about the team," DeJulius told us in the post-game presser. "We had to look in the mirror and got an OG like that demand that from us and we had to respond."
Coming out of the half, Cincinnati got off to a great start, cutting into the deficit but every time they started to build momentum, Jack Nunge had an answer for the Musketeers.
"We just knew they were going to make a run," Nunge said. "We were telling each other, they're going to make a run at some point. You know, this huge rivalry game, a big game for both teams and we wanted to fight until the end. Luckily, we came out on top but we knew they were going to make a run."
At 8:43 remaining in the half, Xavier held a 63-51 lead. But then, the Bearcats got it rolling and were able to make this a fight neither fan of the rivalry will ever forget. Cincinnati got their offense rolling over that war getting made baskets from DeJulius, Nolley, and Viktor Lahkin to push into the game, but two back-to-back dunks from Ody Oguama got the Fifth Third crowd back into the game.
The roles then started to reverse, every time Xavier thought they were about to pull away, Cincinnati didn't quit. At 3:42 to go, Xavier was up by 11 points, but over the next 3 minutes, David DeJulius took over the game and put the Bearcats on his back. In the last 3:28, DeJulius scored 12 points including hitting a deep three, while being fouled by freshman Desmond Claude to go to the free-throw line and tie the game at 77-77.
"When it left my hands I felt like it was gonna be good, but I was three free throws, I knew they were going to be ultra-aggressive."
But on the other end, Xavier made sure to get the ball into the hands of the guy who lead the way, Souley Boum.
"I came off the ball screen, Jack had a great screen, I had a lane and I was looking to either make a play for myself or somebody else so obviously the play was for me, I got fouled and I was just looking to finish the game."
Boum did just that hitting his free throw and missing the second but what came next was a very unique situation.
The Bearcats didn't have any timeouts remaining, but Wes Miller knew that if he were to call one, Xavier would get two additional shots, but needed to make sure the Bearcats got the ball back.
"Sean (Miller) calls a timeout and you know he's calling it to try and miss. and you know we have the play we practice all the time, every college basketball team does. So, you're thinking about it if he misses you call timeout because you don't have any, it's a technical foul do you get the ball back? Because they'll get two free throws but now you get a chance to throw it long." Wes Miller said in his presser.
"So, I checked with the lead official, Joe, and I said Joe if I get a technical on the miss I just wanna make sure we get the ball and get a chance because it's a one-possession game even if he hits both free throws. If you notice, Joe was standing there right beside me and I'm saying I want it, if we miss I want it because you're playing the odds. I think you have a better chance with .7 or more."
Sean Miller also discussed his thoughts on the final moments of the game. "On offense our late-game execution was excellent. It's very similar to the play we ran against Indiana. Against Indiana we missed it, tonight we got fouled and made free throws."
Through it all, Xavier won 80-77. The likely final test for the Musketeers before they begin Big East play.
Guard respect given:
In the post-game, both Souley Boum and David DeJulius discussed the respect they have for each other.
"Give my credit to him, hats off to him, he's a good player," Boum said of his adversary. "He's a leader for their team and it was a great challenge for me, knowing that I gotta continue to get better at defense and he was a good test for me."
"He's got my respect for sure. We hugged it out after the game, there's a mutual respect there. I see why he's on draft boards for sure. I knew coming into the game it was going to be a dogfight. I knew I wanted to bring it to him." DeJulius said of Boum
History continues to grow in the rivalry:
This was the 90th Crosstown Shootout between these two teams. Xavier is now the winners of the last four.