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December 10, 2011

Shootout turns ugly in more than one way

After slowly building a double-digit lead over the first 30 minutes of the game, redshirt freshman forward Justin Martin broke the game wide open by draining a corner three-pointer with 9:13 left to give Xavier an 18-point lead. Cincinnati never got closer than 13 after that, and the Musketeers finished with a 76-53 victory.

The part of the game that everyone will remember, unfortunately, is the bench-clearing brawl that ended the game with 13 second remaining. After verbal altercations between Xavier players and the Cincinnati bench continued to escalate, a fight broke out, starting with shoving between Tu Holloway and Bearcats freshman guard Ge'Lawn Guyn.

"It's toughness. Sometimes it gets out of control," Holloway said after the game.

From there, punches were thrown on both sides, most notably Cincinnati senior power forward Yancy Gates punching Xavier senior center Kenny Frease, severely bloodying Frease's face.

"At the end of the day, if somebody tries to put their hands to your face or do something to you, where we're from, we're going to do something back," Xavier junior guard Mark Lyons said. "We're not going to sit back and let our face get beat in."

In the 39:47 that most people will forget, Xavier dominated the game on the perimeter, not allowing Cincinnati players to find their way into the lane. The only Cincinnati player who could get into the lane was Gates, but he often was pushed off the block and forced to attack from the wing. Gates finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds.

Cincinnati was unable to get much offense going, as the Bearcats shot just 27.9 percent from the field.

Offense came easy for Xavier, as the Musketeers pushed the ball down the court against a UC team that wore down due to a lack of depth.

Lyons led Xavier with 19 points, while Holloway scored 17 and freshman Dez Wells went for 14 in his first Shootout. Frease had 13 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks.

For the game, Xavier shot 51.8 percent from the field while outrebounding Cincinnati 40-36. In a game of emotion, Holloway and Lyons consistently made plays as UC tried to come back from double-figure deficits.

Every time they came out of a stoppage of play, the Musketeers seemed to get the exact play they wanted. That included the start of the second half, when they turned a 34-25 lead into a 43-27 advantage just minutes in by scoring on four straight trips down the floor.

Coaching adjustments also played a role in this one, as Cincinnati started the game playing man-to-man defense on the perimeter while leaving Gates around the basket in a zone. Xavier quickly adjusted, having its guards attack with midrange shots in the paint off of the pick and roll.

The other adjustment came from Xavier increasing the pressure on UC point guard Cashmere Wright and center Gates, both of whom the Musketeers chose to sit back on last year and let them take shots. With the pressure on both of them, the Bearcats were unable to run their offense and actually were stripped several times in the lane.

But what everyone will remember from this game was the brawl.

"Toughness isn't a fight; it's what we do every game, the way we stay in the game when another team makes a run," Holloway said. "A fight after the game is not toughness."

In his postgame press conference, Xavier coach Chris Mack was clearly upset.

"I'm really disappointed in the way that both teams conducted themselves down the stretch," Mack said. "We're all competitors, we all played our hearts out and there was a lot of pressure on both teams to win. For it to play itself out the way it did at the end, I don't know another word other than 'disappointed.'

"We're not in the locker room talking about, 'Let's go after their throat.' The crime is that for 39 minutes of it I'd say it was one of the cleaner Crosstown Shootouts."

Despite the unfortunate ending, Xavier notched its fourth Crosstown Shootout win in five years.

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