In one of the more aesthetically pleasing games in the history of the Crosstown Shootout, No. 19 Cincinnati outlasted No. 24 Xavier, 86-78, Thursday night at the Bearcats’ Fifth Third Arena.
Sophomore guard Jacob Evans led the way for UC, scoring 21 points to go along with seven rebounds and three assists. Troy Caupain (16), Jarron Cumberland (15), Gary Clark (13), and Kyle Washington (12) also scored in double figures for the Bearcats, who shot 50.0 percent from the field and scored 50 points in the game’s second half.
The victory snapped a three-game losing streak in the series for Cincinnati, which entered the evening having dropped seven of their last nine meetings with their crosstown rivals. The Bearcats have now won 11 straight overall.
The home team emerged victorious despite Xavier’s Trevon Bluiett playing one of the best halves of basketball anyone has seen in 2016-17.
The junior guard drilled all eight of his field goal attempts in the game’s opening 20 minutes, including a double-clutch three-pointer right before the halftime buzzer, to head into the break with 26 points. He made his first two shots of the second half, both three-pointers, before finally missing a forced jumper with multiple hands in his face. Bluiett finished the night with a career-high 40 points on 12-of-15 shooting from the field, including 9-of-11 from beyond the arc.
The loss by Xavier, which led by eight at halftime, marked the latest of many disappointments for a team that began the year ranked No. 7 in the AP Poll. The Musketeers fell for the fourth time in five games, and their record against ranked opponents dropped to 0-5.
For Cincinnati, the victory meant far more than merely city bragging rights for the first time since 2012. The Bearcats entered the evening with an imposing 17-2 record, but no wins over teams currently ranked in the top 25, and no games remaining against any opponents with such a status.
The victory is also a nice out-of-league score for the American Athletic Conference, which has just two teams — Cincinnati and SMU — currently in the Field of 68 according to Chris Dobbertean’s latest Bracketology. The conference is in desperate need of a strong March performance from at least one of its flagship teams, as the AAC has managed just one victory in each of the last two NCAA tournaments.
Although Xavier has still won 14 of the last 21 games in the series, Cincinnati’s victory increased its all-time advantage in the Crosstown Shootout to 50-34. Thursday night’s game represented the first time in series history that both teams have been ranked in back-to-back years.