CINCINNATI — There have been fantastic finishes to the Crosstown Shootout. There have great performances and unforgettable moments.
There have been coaching feuds and of course, one very ugly brawl.
But never before in the previous 89 editions of the most heated collegiate inter-city rivalry in the country has there been an ending like the one Cincinnati college basketball fans were treated to Saturday at Fifth Third Arena.
Souley Boum used a ball screen to drive to the basket and get fouled by Viktor Lahkin. His free throw with 1.4 seconds left broke a 77-77 tie and allowed the Muskies to eventually escape, 80-77.
But that hardly tells the story of the final 60 seconds.
The Bearcats had fought back from 76-65 with three minutes left. They were down 76-73 on a David DeJulius three with 34 seconds left. Boum had made just one of two free throws with 17 seconds left. So, the Bearcats needed a miracle. They got one as part of one of the craziest finishes in the history of the legendary series.
ON. HIS. HEAD. ?@espn | https://t.co/BLm7Glfe7B pic.twitter.com/gRJ9VvKurl
— Cincinnati Men’s Hoops (@GoBearcatsMBB) December 10, 2022
Desmond Claude was called for fouling David DeJulius as DeJulius banked in a desperate heave with 11 seconds remaining. Naturally, DeJulius hit the free throw to tie the game. To say the crowd was delirious would be the height of understatement. A crowd that was frustrated for the first 20 minutes and became hysterical as UC made a push with eight minutes left turned into uncontrollable pandemonium on DeJulius’ miracle four-point play.
“That environment tonight is the best environment,” Bearcats coach Wes Miller said. “I’ve ever been a part of as a college basketball player or coach, and I’ve been part of some cool environments. It’s the best I’ve ever been a part of.
For 20 minutes, it was the Crosstown Blowout.
In the first half, Xavier shot 15-of-32, 6-of-13 from long range and Cincinnati missed 11 of their first 13 shots. The Bearcats were 7-of-27 from the field. The halftime score was 41-24 Xavier, and there was little indication of what was to come.
Even five minutes into the second half, as Cincinnati made a couple of charges, Xavier still had command of the game. Then UC made its push. DeJulius got hot. The Cincinnati inside game, which they established after Kenyon Martin ripped a new one for the kids playing for his Alma Mater. That first 20 minutes was an display of how NOT to play this rivalry game.
Martin, sitting courtside, sneaked in at halftime before the coaches had a chance to address the players and told them to wake the heck up, only in much stronger language.
“I honestly did not know that,” Wes Miller said. “But he came in after the game and talked to our team. What an honor. You’re talking about one of the greatest players to ever play our game. One of the greatest competitors, great winners and his jersey hangs here.
“I can’t tell you how bad I wanted it for our team, the people that support this program, and the people that have played in this program and coached. I can’t tell you how bad I want us to get to where we’re supposed to be as a Cincinnati basketball program. We’ll freakin’ get there or I’ll damn be in the grave. It’s that simple. We will get there. You look at that building tonight. You want it so bad for those people. They deserve it. You want it so bad for these kids. They deserve it. And we will get there.
“And Kenyon Martin and the list of former players in there tonight. You kiddin’ me? Lloyd Batts, he played in the 70s. He was a helluva player. Steve Logan was here. Ruben Patterson was here. I want it so bad for those people and the people that support this program. I hate that we can’t get over the hump for the people who are supporting us. But we freakin’ will.”
Wes Miller promises "we'll freakin get over the hump here… or I'll be in the grave." Also addresses Kenyon Martin talking to team. pic.twitter.com/RpvpbOPFBx
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) December 10, 2022
There’s Duke-North Carolina. There’s Villanova-Temple and Villanova-St. Joe’s in the Big 5 of Philadelphia. Back in the day, Kentucky-Louisville was must-watch.
Those are all epic college basketball rivalries. But the intensity with which the last three minutes were played Saturday speaks to just why this showdown still means so much in Cincinnati.
Don’t let the high praise the two Millers had for each other after this game mislead you. There was still an intensity that made winning a relief for Xavier and bitter heartbreak for UC. Saturday, however, was proof positive that two teams can have an intense dislike for the uniform but a complete respect for the player in the uniform.
David DeJulius had it for Souley Boum in his postgame press conference and Sean Miller had it for every Bearcat that made life a living hell for his team in the second half.
“If it’s lost luster, it’s news to me. It felt like the same old difficult game,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said. “Wes Miller is building their program. You can see it when you scout them. You can see it by the players he’s recruiting. And you can see it from what he did before coming to Cincinnati. He’s building it. On our end, we’re trying to do the same thing, and move toward the top of the Big East, where we were in 2018. I think you have two programs trying to do the same thing. I think fans have a lot to be proud of and a lot of hope here as we move forward.”
That sounds like a win-win for this rivalry going forward and, more importantly, for rich college basketball tradition in Cincinnati.
The Xavier-UC rivalry is alive and well according to Xavier coach Sean Miller. pic.twitter.com/TVqvuajjLm
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) December 11, 2022