Friday, January 29, 1999
Shootout best game in town
BY TIM SULLIVAN
The Cincinnati Enquirer
How about a best two-out-of-three? Or, better yet, 10-out-of-19? How about changing the Crosstown Shootout from an annual extravaganza to a daily delight?
College basketball may get better than it did Thursday night at the Shoemaker Center, but what fan who could stand the excitement wouldn't settle for a lot more of the same? The University of Cincinnati beat Xavier, 87-77, and though the final score might indicate otherwise, there wasn't a dry palm in the house.
The Shoe, normally as noisy as Walden Pond, became the capital of Bedlam for the benefit of the ESPN cameras. Viewers unfamiliar with our local brand of college hoops craziness had to come away with the sense they had stumbled into a rivalry on a par with the Tar Heels and the Blue Devils or the Hatfields and McCoys.
It was definitely a playoff atmosphere tonight, said UC's Melvin Levett. That's how it should be all the time.
It was an atmosphere that would be difficult to replicate more than once a year. So much emotion. So much intensity. So much to see.
Pump up the volume
They wouldn't let them come to us, Levett explained, so I went to them. I just wanted to celebrate with our crowd.
Ultimately, the fifth-ranked Bearcats were too deep, too muscular, too relentless. They pushed the ball inside until foul problems forced XU coach Skip Prosser to tap the thinnest part of his bench. Aaron Turner played 28 minutes without making a field goal. Steve Logan scored 17 off the bench for the Bearcats.
Still, it wasn't nearly as easy as the experts imagined, and it wasn't really over even when Levett's three-point shot stretched UC's lead to seven points in the closing minutes, though the Bearcat guard pulled a finger across his throat to signal Xavier's demise.
Not until Logan sank two free throws with 36.5 seconds to play did the outcome seem inevitable. Those shots gave the Bearcats a seven-point lead, and left Xavier in need of three swift, successful possessions. The Muskies were marvelous in spurts, but they weren't quite magical.
The Bearcats surged to a 42-31 lead shortly after intermission, and appeared poised to cover the spread, if not UC's appetite for revenge after two straight Shootout defeats. When Xavier was able to penetrate, it was hard-pressed to finish because of the menacing presence of Kenyon Martin.
We never really found the answer to them on the boards, Prosser said. As we talked about for three days, it wasn't the first shot that would beat us, it was the second shot.
This sent Logan to the line for two free throws, and helped revive the Bearcats' long-dormant offense. What followed were 14 frenetic minutes of pulsating, pulse-quickening combat. The Bearcats seized control, but with 1:33 to play, it was still a four-point game, and every eardrum had been tested.
It was the best show in town. As usual.
Enquirer columnist Tim Sullivan welcomes your E-mail. Message him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Rebounds: Martin 8, Levett 7
Blocks: Martin 6
Steals: Horton, Mickeal, Tate 2
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Shootout best game in town
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