By Shannon Russell
The Cincinnati Enquirer
For the first time in seven years, former UC assistant Mike Bradbury arrived with the opposition, coached from the visiting bench and left the Crosstown Shootout with a loss.
Bradbury was hired as a Xavier assistant by first-year coach Kevin McGuff in June. Saturday marked his first return to the Shoe since he left UC coach Laurie Pirtle's program after six years as an assistant.
For the seventh-straight year, the Bearcats defeated their local rival 61-56 for the Shootout title.
"It was hard," Bradbury said. "It was tough. And it's tougher when you have to play a team like that, because they're so good."
Bradbury, who helped recruit some of UC's top players, is one of two Muskies coaches with Bearcat ties. Former Bearcat player Amber Stocks is also in her first year as a Xavier assistant coach.
Before tipoff, Pirtle and her staff shook hands with Stocks, assistant coach Kristin Cole, McGuff and Bradbury. Pirtle, who last week declined to comment on Bradbury's leaving, said "it was good to see him" Saturday.
Bradbury and Stocks' history with UC played little into the game's outcome. Pirtle described their relationships as teacher to teacher, not mentor to student.
"When Amber Stocks played for me, she taught me so much. And Mike, coaching with me, taught me so much. So I'm not the teacher," Pirtle said. "We just worked together and did a lot of great things together. Now we're separated and going to do great things."
The hardest part about the day was watching UC's Debbie Merrill dominate the boards, Bradbury said.
"If we outrebound them, we win. It was a simple game plan, to rebound. And we didn't," Bradbury said.
THE NOSE KNOWS: Junior forward Aida Sarajlija broke her nose Dec. 14 in Xavier's 78-65 defeat of Indiana State. Wearing protective headgear, she tied her season-high rebounding mark with eight.
ISOLATION BOOTHE: Two-time Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week Tara Boothe was held to a season-low 10 points and five rebounds, thanks in part to Merrill's man-to-man coverage.
"I like to go against people who can play, and she's one of those players that was a challenge for me," Merrill said.
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