By Shannon Russell
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The bragging rights still belong to the University of Cincinnati.
UC's Brittani Young fights for a rebound with Xavier's Aida Sarajlija.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
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UC overcame five lead changes, five ties and a nine-point deficit to defeat Xavier 61-56 in Saturday's 25th annual Crosstown Shootout at the Shoemaker Center before a crowd of 2,352.
The Bearcats' defense stole the spotlight, pinning the Muskies to a season-low 56 points and limiting leading scorer Amy Waugh to nine points. Waugh, who averages 18.5 points, snapped a 25-game streak of double-figure scoring.
UC coach Laurie Pirtle was thrilled with the defensive output, because the offense just wasn't cutting it.
"I wasn't happy with how we were getting to the basket. I thought we were accepting too many outside shots, and not breaking them down," Pirtle said.
UC shot 26.5 percent from the field in the first half and struggled from 3-point territory for the fourth straight game. Xavier took advantage of a UC six-minute scoring drought to build a 25-16 lead.
Waugh's shooting struggles, compounded by only four first-half points from freshman forward Tara Boothe, opened the door for guard Reetta Piipari.
And she delivered.
Piipari hit her first jump shot at 14:03 and kept on going, drilling 13 of the Muskies' first 19 points.
Cincinnati's Valerie King snakes a pass around Kristy Wallner.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
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"They just passed it to me when I was open, and I took all the open looks I had," said Piipari, who finished with a season-high 24 points.
But the Bearcats made adjustments at halftime and came back.
Brittani Young and Valerie King shut down Piipari's offensive barrage, limiting her to six second-half points with man-to-man defense.
Xavier coach Kevin McGuff said UC's up-tempo offense took a toll on the Muskies, whose rotation consisted mainly of six players. For the first time this season, Xavier did not have at least three players reach double figures - Boothe (10 points) and Piipari were the only XU players to do so Saturday.
"We wanted a little bit of a slower pace. We don't play a ton of people and I thought that favored us, but for a stretch there we didn't get many good shots," McGuff said.
Throw in UC's offensive rebounding - 18 boards, to XU's 11 - and the Bearcats' 15 second-chance points decided the game.
K.B. Sharp broke open a 47-47 tie with a layup with 6:16 to play, and the Bearcats never relinquished control.
Valerie King scored nine of her 16 points in the second half to lead UC.
Despite the ties and early deficit, UC center Debbie Merrill was confident the Bearcats would get a second wind.
"I don't think the team was really scared or nervous. We just pulled together," said Merrill, who had 14 points and nine rebounds. "We just kind of lost our heads for a minute."
With the win, UC improved to 8-2, while Xavier dropped to 7-2. Seniors Waugh and Piipari were swept by UC, which has won seven straight over Xavier.
"In the end, it's just another game," Waugh said. "We got a little better today. We need to use this game to continue to improve."
Team rebounds: 6.
Team rebounds: 1.
Attendance-2,352. 3-point goals-Xavier 3-21(Waugh 2-10, Piipari 1-8, Wallner 0-2, Wells 0-1); Cincinnati 3-15 (Alexander 0-1, Sharp 1-4, King 2-9, Harvey 0-1). Technical fouls-None. Officials-Struckhoff, Brewton, Koch.
UC 61, XU 56
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