By: Craig James
Coming into The Crosstown Shootout we expected a back and forth, down to the last shot, instant classic type of battle. We got the opposite. In front of a record-setting crowd at the Cintas Center, Xavier dominated the game from the opening tip. Trevon Bluiett hit two threes in the opening minutes of the game and the Muskies never looked back. A sound beating of the Bearcats. With a final score of 89-76…it honestly never felt close. Xavier pretty much dominated this game, other than the small run the Bearcats went on in the second half. Bluiett finished with 28 points and carried his team to victory. What transpired after is all everyone is still talking about. We’ll get into that a little later on… back to the game.
There’s always that one player that emerges each year that makes you go, where the heck did that performance come from?!? This year, that guy was Kerem Kanter. He finished with 17 points and hit a couple of threes, which is something he hasn’t really done so far this season. When Musketeer fans saw those shots going on we knew it was going to be a good day. For Kanter to play like that in his first and last Crosstown Shootout, it was nothing short of amazing. Good for him.
The most surprising aspect of the game was the rebounding. Xavier DOMINATED on the boards. Winning the rebounding battle 44-27. Did I mention that was with Xavier’s top rebounder, Tyrique Jones, barely playing in the second half due to injury? Didn’t see that one coming. I guess Chris Mack wearing a #19 jersey all week in practice worked. If you don’t recall, UC had 19 offensive rebounds in last year’s game, so Mack wanted to remind this year’s team of that. The fact UC got out rebounded without Xavier’s top rebounder on the floor should be cause for concern. Especially with the schedule UC has coming up. The Bearcats playing local CYO teams prior to the Crosstown Shootout did not bode well for them. Five minutes into the game you could see the look on their players faces, like oh shit, this team actually knows how to dribble and shoot too.
Now let’s get into what happened post game. For starters I know a thing or two about trash talk. Here are my qualifications. Set a CYO record in 6th grade basketball for most technical fouls in one season, received a flag for taunting in 8th grade CYO football after making what some are calling the greatest catch in CYO history, and got ejected in a baseball game my senior year of college. So I know a thing or two about some trash talk and how to handle these situations.
First off let me say this. I have all my UC buddies saying this is Mick’s best team ever. That’s kind of like saying you’re the smartest kid in the C level algebra class in high school. It doesn’t really mean much. Let’s face it what has Mick Cronin really accomplished at UC? A quick Google search we’ll show you…not a lot. Wikipedia is showing me one Sweet 16 appearance. What we saw postgame Saturday was years of frustration being built up. Losing to your biggest rival seemingly every year and he lost it, he just snapped. Kind of like AJ Green when he tried to kill that dude on the Jaguars. Just years of built of frustration all coming out at once. Mick acted like a child after the postgame handshake and in his press conference. Dude you’re an adult going after a college kid?! What was Mick going to do if he actual got to Macura? Was he going to pull a Woody Hayes and punch an opposing player?! C’mon Mick you know better than that. Mick was asked after the game if there’s anything to discuss with Macura and he said “where he comes from there’s nothing else to talk about” meaning it’s time to throw hands, as the kids say these days. Well Mick is from the mean streets of LaSalle High School and we all know the Lancers roll deep so if I was JP Macura I’d be shaking in my boots…C’mon Mick, you South Pole Elf you, be better.
This rivalry is truly outstanding. The fact both programs coaches dislike each other this much is awesome. It just makes the rivalry that much more intense. Heck Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh don’t even talk about each other like Cronin and Mack do. Chris Mack sticking up for his guy postgame will bring this Xavier team closer together even more than they already are. Who does Cronin think he is giving life lessons postgame about who would and wouldn’t play on his team? Hey Mick you’re not Coach K, leave the soapbox for him. Even former Bearcat legend Nick Vanexel was calling Mick out after the game.
Coach Mack, a personal friend of mine, is an outstanding coach and person. Watch his demeanor and coaching mentality on the sidelines. It’s why numerous programs come calling year after year to hire him. Xavier fans should be thankful Mack is still on our sideline. Mack and I shared conversation Saturday afternoon in a local bars bathroom, which the location of this fine establishment will not be disclosed at this time. It was fantastic. Reminiscing about yet another victory over the Bearcats and making fun of the angry elf of a coach UC has. It was great. In all seriousness it was pretty entertaining watching Mack’s reaction to ESPN and FS1’s studio basketball analysts bash Mick Cronin.
Xavier fans get to enjoy being the top dog in the Queen City for another year. It’s time to face some facts. UC dominated this rivalry when women couldn’t drive or vote and Xavier has pretty much dominated since the internet was invented. At the rate Xavier is going they should have the all-time series tied up by the time Elon Musk’s Tesla space rocket is ready to go to the moon. What a time to be a Xavier fan. Expect Xavier to make the biggest jump of any team in college basketball when the rankings are released later today.
Now, UC and XU fans, it’s time to put our differences aside and come together tonight for the Bengals against fat face Big Ben and the Steelers.