No. 11 Cincinnati beats city rival Xavier
by Bill Koch, USA TODAY Sports
CINCINNATI (AP) — As the Musketeers filed into their locker room Wednesday night at halftime with a two-point lead, Xavier coach Chris Mack liked what he had seen despite the fact that the Musketeers missed all six of their free throws.
“We were who we wanted to be in the first half,” Mack said. “We went into halftime feeling good about where we were and what we needed to do in the second half.”
But when they came back out for the second half, it was the Bearcats who were what they wanted to be.
No. 11 Cincinnati (11-0) turned up its defensive pressure, forced the Musketeers into a flurry of turnovers and took control of the game with a 17-4 run.
Xavier never recovered.
The Bearcats, behind 25 points from junior guard Sean Kilpatrick, pulled away for a 60-45 victory over the Musketeers in the Skyline Chili Crosstown Classic before 14,528 fans at U.S. Bank Arena.
“Our pressure defense was the difference in the game,” said Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin.
Travis Taylor scored 12 points to lead Xavier, which produced its lowest point total of the season.
It was the first time the game was played at U.S. Bank Arena since Jan. 29, 1987, the two schools opting for a neutral court after the fight that marred last year’s game at Xavier’s Cintas Center.
Cincinnati leads the series, 49-31.
Xavier (7-3) made only three of 14 free throws and didn’t convert its first one until the 7:39 mark of the second half when Isaiah Philmore made the front end of the bonus and then missed the second.
But in the first half it appeared as if the Musketeers, who led by as many as five, were going to pull another upset, as they have so often in this rivalry.
“We were playing so flat (in the first half), and that’s something that we’re not really used to,” said Kilpatrick, who scored 18 of his points in the second half. “We just had to keep attacking them on the defensive end. That’s who we are. We’re a defensive team.”
The Bearcats, who trailed 24-22 at halftime, forced two quick turnovers to start … [For more on No drama: No. 11 Cincinnati beats city rival Xavier, click here.]