It doesn’t get any bigger than this in the city of Cincinnati as the 6-2 Bearcats travel to the Cintas Center to battle the 8-1 Xavier Musketeers. In a rivalry that once was just a big game in the city, the game now gets the attention of the college basketball world. In large part to coaches like Bob Staak, Pete Gillen, Bob Huggins, and Chris Mack just to name a few.
Last season saw the Bearcats dominate the Musketeers and this season seems different as the Bearcats will enter this game as a 6-point underdog and the status of there best player Jarron Cumberland in doubt. The key in this game to me will be the ability of the Cincinnati Bearcats to get solid production from Keith Williams, Chris Vogt, and Jaevin Cumberland. The Musketeers questions so far this season have all came on the offensive side of the ball and they will need to find someone who can knock down perimeter shots.
As to be expected both teams came out with a ton of energy but the execution in the first two minutes was not to be seen. The scoring started almost three minutes on when Bearcat guard Keith Williams hit a baseline three to give the Bearcats the first point of the game. Not to be outdone, Muskie’s star Naji Marshall immediately answered with a three of his own to tie the game. Tyrique Jones had a huge block on a Chris Vogt dunk attempt and then Paul Scruggs hit a three to put X ahead 4 minutes in 6-5.
The next 6 minutes belonged to UC. Keith Williams got a couple of baskets and seems to be the most relaxed player on the court and he is the main reason that halfway through the first half the Cincinnati Bearcats lead the Xavier Musketeers 17-13.
The next 4 minutes Naji Marshall started to exert his dominance in the game with a three-point field goal from the top of the key, and a layup that tied the game at 20 with 6:30 left in the half. Now the question Cincinnati coach John Brannen will have to answer will be how to defend Marshall.
Marshall came out of the time out and scored two more baskets and freshman Zach Freemantle made his presence felt on both sides of the floor, while the Bearcats finally saw star Jarron Cumberland score his first basket. With 3:49 left in the half, the Muskies lead 26-22 and it seems like Jarron Cumberland is going to try to step up on the offensive end to try and match Naji Marshall.
Cumberland responded right away out of the timeout with a basket as the UC star looked to be trying to match Marshall, and then Naji hits a three-pointer right away to answer. Xavier guard Bryce Moore made an outstanding play raking a charge and followed it up by hitting a big three-pointer from the wing to extend the Muskies lead to 8. The Bearcats got a questionable call against the Muskies as Bryce Moore who seemed to get all ball was called on a foul with Bearcats Jaevin Cumberland getting three free throws out of the call. Jaevin made two out of the three free throws leaving the Xavier lead at halftime of 32-29.
The Musketeers stormed out of the locker room and started to take the game over at the start of the second half led by Tyrique Jones who hit a couple of quick baskets. Then a Gooden steal and the resulting Naji Marshall dunk helped Xavier stretch the lead to 40-31 with just under three minutes gone in the second half. Bearcat Keith Williams hit a quick basket that stopped the bleeding for a short amount of time but on the Muskie’s next trip down Tyrique Jones found Naji Marshall for the quick answer to Williams’s basket and the Muskies led 42-33 with 16 minutes left in the game.
Naji Marshall bangs home another 3 and then the play of the game happened just inside of the 14-minute mark when Marshall went to the floor to steal the ball passed it to Scruggs at midcourt who found Jason Carter fr the finish. Tyrique Jones extended the Xavier med tp 51-35 with a monstrous dunk with just under 12 minutes left in the game.
Finally, Jarron Cumberland awakes for the Bearcats scoring 5 points in a 30-second span to cut the Xavier lead to single-digits with 9:24 left. Paul Scruggs answered that run with a bucket of his own. Then as he has all game a spectacular defensive play by Naji Marshall occurred as Naji had a huge block on Trevon Scott. Bearcat big-man Chris Vogt made a huge play on a rebound putback that he got fouled on leading to an old fashioned 3-point play but missed the free thrown cutting lead to 55-46.
A big moment came with 5:33 left in the game as Jarron Cumberland drew his fourth foul, who took the charge? You guessed it Naji Marshall who has done everything this evening. Zach Freemantle hit a baseline jumper to push the Xavier lead to 63-52 with a little over 3 minutes left. Mike Adam Woods hit a baseline 3-pointer to cut the Xavier lead back to single digits 65-57 with 1:51 left.
Naji Marshall hit a baseline jumper to close the game out for all intents and purposes. 73-66, was the final score but in the second half, it did not feel that close. The Bearcats turned the ball over too much and the Xavier defense controlled the game. The Musketeers are going to have to improve the half-court offense if they want to make a deep run in March, but for now, the Crosstown Shootout belongs to the Musketeers.