CINCINNATI (AP) — Jason Love got his 19th rebound with 9.8 seconds left and made a clinching free throw, leading Xavier to an 83-79 double-overtime victory over No. 19 Cincinnati on Sunday night in a nasty and classic renewal of their crosstown rivalry.
Xavier (6-3) wasted a 10-point lead in regulation, survived Lance Stephenson’s off-target shot at the end of the first overtime, then pulled it out on its home court behind its lone senior.
Cincinnati (6-2) has dropped three straight and 10 of the last 14 against Xavier, which has a knack for gritting them out. It held true in the first double-overtime game in a series that dates to 1928.
This one fit the profile to a T, as in technical foul.
There were two technicals, and players from both teams yelled at each other during a timeout after Love was called for an intentional foul with 3:20 left in the first half. Coaches from both teams furiously pulled their players away so it wouldn’t escalate into a brawl.
Terrell Holloway led Xavier with a career-high 26 points, including a three-point play that tied it with 19 seconds left in the first overtime. Stephenson scored a career-high 22 for Cincinnati.
The city’s headline basketball rivalry was second-page material this week, with the young Musketeers struggling under first-year coach Chris Mack and Cincinnati caught up in the loss of football coach Brian Kelly, who went to Notre Dame with his unbeaten Bearcats headed to the Sugar Bowl. Midway through the first half, Xavier’s student section chanted “Brian Kelly!” to rub it in.
In years past, it was a premiere event with a very raw edge.
When Bob Huggins coached the Bearcats, the Musketeers took delight in knocking them off their high-ranked pedestal. Since Huggins’ ouster shortly before the start of the 2005-06 season, Xavier has become the city’s top basketball program, going to the NCAA tournament’s round of 16 in three of the past six years, reaching the Elite Eight twice.
Cincinnati has been shoveling out from Huggins’ ouster, failing to make the NCAA tournament since he left. The Bearcats have finally regained their balance and stature in Mick Cronin’s fourth season, making it back into the national rankings for the first time since 2005-06.
Could they come full-circle in their backyard rivalry?
Xavier opened with a 12-5 run, blocking four of Cincinnati’s first eight shots. Then the Bearcats’ interior defense dug in, forcing Xavier to take long-range shots. The Musketeers missed 13 straight, failing to get a basket for nearly 8 minutes while Cincinnati pulled ahead 19-12.
With one hard foul, the game took on its old, nasty edge.
Xavier’s Dante Jackson got knocked to the floor as he tried to score. Xavier’s Jordan Crawford and Cincinnati’s Rashad Bishop began yelling at each other, drawing technical fouls. It seemed to inspire the Musketeers, who went on a 12-2 run.
With 3:20 left in the half, Love drew an intentional foul on Stephenson as he went up for a layup. During the timeout, both benches emptied to midcourt and players yelled at each other while coaches yanked and shoved them back, preventing it from escalating.
Holloway made a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer that helped Xavier take a 31-26 halftime lead. The three referees stood between the teams as they headed for their locker rooms at the buzzer.
Xavier pulled ahead by 10 points in the second half, but Stephenson made a pair of jumpers and a 3-pointer during an 11-0 run that gave Cincinnati a 55-51 lead. With the score tied at 61, Xavier’s Jackson made a basket at the buzzer that was waved off. Replays confirmed the ball was still in his hands at the buzzer, sending it overtime.
Stephenson had a chance to win it in the first overtime, but his 3-point shot in the closing seconds was off the rim.