CINCINNATI (AP)—No. 10 Xavier stayed unbeaten by taking the roughest one of them all.
Derrick Brown had 20 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out on a technical Saturday, and the Musketeers beat Cincinnati 76-66 on the Bearcats’ court in a game that featured six technical fouls and trash talk galore.
Whistle by whistle, it fit the crosstown rivalry’s lore.
“I felt a little embarrassed because I represent Xavier,” Brown said of his two technicals. “At the same time, I knew whatever we needed to do, my teammates were going to do. I was trying to hold in my emotions, but it was a big game.”
Xavier (9-0) extended the second-best start in its history by maintaining its edge in the edge-of-an-elbow series. The Musketeers have won nine of their last 13 against Cincinnati (6-2), which never led after the opening 2 minutes.
Deonta Vaughn led Cincinnati’s comeback from a 17-point deficit in the second half, scoring 19 of his 27 points after the intermission as the Bearcats got the lead down to three. It wasn’t nearly enough.
“We weren’t tough enough to run our offense,” Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. “We didn’t show poise, we didn’t show enough fortitude to get the shots we want.”
C.J. Anderson added 17 points and 11 rebounds for Xavier, which is one victory shy of tying the school mark for best start set by the 1996-97 squad. The senior forward grew up in Cincinnati and has won both of his games against the Bearcats.
“If you’re not ready to play a rivalry game, maybe you shouldn’t be playing,” Anderson said. “We got on the bus, we were focused. We had only one goal in mind—win the game. We knew there was going to be emotions, trash talking from both sides. At the end of the day, talking ain’t going to get the job done. You’ve got to get it done on the court.”
The team with more to lose usually has the tougher time in the annual grudge match between schools separated by only 3 1/2 miles. The series is flush with upsets, none bigger than when Xavier visited Cincinnati in 1996 and beat the then-No. 1 Bearcats 71-69 on Lenny Brown’s last-second jumper.
In this one, the Bearcats had the most to gain. They’ve shown improvement in their fourth season since Bob Huggins’ ouster as coach, but haven’t been able to draw a crowd—their 13,000-seat arena was less than half full for each game before Saturday—or get much national attention.
They also had the advantage of a full week to prepare for the game—Xavier had only two days—and broke out their special red uniforms for the occasion.
Xavier opened with a 14-2 run that set the tone. The Musketeers’ tight man-to-man defense, their staple during the unbeaten streak, clamped down on Vaughn and the Bearcats’ front line, holding Cincinnati to 3-for-13 shooting with 10 turnovers in the first 12 minutes.
“We’ve got new people here that don’t really know what it’s like to play against an opponent like this,” Vaughn said. “They don’t know about an atmosphere like this and how important it is.”
The Musketeers took control with an 18-4 run that featured Dante Jackson, who was forced to move back to point guard after freshman Terrell Holloway picked up three quick fouls. Jackson hit back-to-back 3s, and had a pull-up jumper and a steal in the run, which pushed the score to 39-22.
Jackson had 13 of his career-high 15 points in the opening half. He also had a pair of steals as Xavier forced 14 turnovers before the break.
“We played as bad in the first half as we can play,” Cronin said. “We lost the game in the first half with horrendous offense—14 turnovers leading to a lot of layups at the other end, a lot of fouls at the other end. We just basically lost the game with lack of execution on the offensive end.”
Vaughn took over the Bearcats’ offense at the start of the second half, scoring 17 points in the first 9 minutes. His third 3-pointer in the surge cut it to 55-49 and brought the Bearcats’ first capacity crowd to its feet.
Xavier finished it off with defense. Brown had steals on back-to-back Cincinnati possessions and was fouled both times. He made all four free throws, building the lead to 68-59 with 2:30 left. He fouled out with 1:20 left after getting Xavier’s fourth technical foul for taunting.
“He’s assertive, he’s a very good defender,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said. “I was disappointed he couldn’t finish the game. No coach wants his team to have four technical fouls. Obviously we were out of control tonight.”
With Brown gone, Anderson made a basket that pushed the lead back to 12.