Lenny Brown went in for the layup, and down on the floor. With his last field goal of Saturday's Crosstown Shootout, the Xavier guard was forcefully fouled by Cincinnati's Bobby Brannen.
He climbed back to his feet beyond the baseline, far from the perimeter where the point guard plays. But Gary Lumpkin was on him like a loose ball. Lumpkin wrapped his friend and teammate in a sweaty bearhug and hoisted him off his feet as if Cincinnati Gardens had attained zero gravity.
Then Lumpkin followed Brown to the free throw line, and shouted at him so as to be heard above the screams.
''It was just one of those moments,'' Lumpkin said later. ''That was a big play in the game, and it was like a knife in their heart. I told Lenny, 'That's the way we do it here at Xavier.' ''
Nothing like it
Lenny Brown and Gary Lumpkin have been together so long that they may soon start finishing each other's sentences. Yet in all their shared experience there has never been one of those moments any sweeter than this. Xavier dominated UC Saturday, 88-68, and its Delaware backcourt was borderline brilliant. Brown and Lumpkin both finished with 23 points, and if the sensations they felt were not euphoria, they would certainly suffice.
Lumpkin said he could not recall the last time he had been moved to lift Brown off the floor, but that it must have been at William Penn High School in New Castle, DE. He was sure it had never happened before at Xavier - not even last year, when UC was ranked No. 1, and Brown's jump shot beat the Bearcats at the buzzer.
''He's not that heavy,'' Lumpkin said. ''And I've been working in the weight room pretty much.''
Saturday's game was not nearly so weighty as last season's, and yet the Muskies still found it indescribably delicious. They were aware of the whispers after Tuesday's ambush at Miami University - questions concerning whether Xavier's reputation had outstripped its reality - and they were eager to provide an emphatic answer in their most emotional rivalry.
Rouse the congregation
''We weren't going to let them come in and beat us on this court,'' Brown said. ''To put them away early, that felt good. I don't know what words to say. It felt good.''
On this afternoon, words were almost superfluous. Xavier played with a passion it must have misplaced the other night in Oxford, and explained itself in a series of grand gestures.
During a crushing 16-0 run late in the first half, Lumpkin hit a three-point shot from the left wing on one possession, and a three-point shot from the right wing on the next. Then, when UC's Brannen was called for a charging foul at the other end, Lumpkin celebrated by pounding his fist against the basket's padded standard.
Gary Lumpkin exhorts the crowd after Xavier had taken a 34-22 lead..
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
Lumpkin implored the crowd to get off its feet at one point, and later, when victory was assured, performed the ''raise the roof'' signal. A keyboard player, Lumpkin sometimes serves as organist for his church choir. He understands how to rouse a congregation.
Lenny Brown is less demonstrative, but no less emotional. He started the game determined to disprove a newspaper assertion that UC had the Shootout's better shooting guard in D'Juan Baker. Baker, as it happened, finished with no field goals.
''I took it upon myself to pressure him,'' Brown said. ''We tried to smother him every time he caught the ball. We wanted to make it hard for him every time up the court.''
Xavier's full-court press fairly suffocated UC. The Bearcats made 29 turnovers, and their only starter with more than one field goal was Melvin Levett. Brown and Lumpkin were both credited with three steals, and forced many more misguided passes.
''You want to win every game you play against Cincinnati,'' Brown said. ''We'll take a win any way we can get it. Xavier was always second-rate to UC in the city. I think things are changing now.''