Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Friday, December 14, 2007

TR: Crosstown Shootout (XU vs. UC) - 12/12/07

I arrived shortly after 5:30, so had no trouble with parking or traffic. I decided to break out the blue spirit hair that, coincidently enough I bought the last time the Crosstown was at Cintas. So last year's Xavier Nation shirt and blue hair, that ought to do it.

Collected the free rally towel on the way in. Nice move to have enough for everybody, and the towel had a full color Crosstown Shootout logo on it. In that was the promo item was suitable for all fans, no matter what school they are affiliated with.

Stopped at the Atlantic City table on the way back to Duff's, and collected a free pen and some free salt water taffy, as well as get registered for a A10 Tournament package. I sit here eagerly awaiting their email telling me I won.:)

Walked into Duff's and they were already in full swing. Had some Skyline, it seemed only fitting for the Skyline game. There were five door prizes tonight, all Skylne gift cards of undisclosed value. No, I didn't win.

Got to me seat in section 208 about 12 minutes before the game started. Saw the student section already looking pretty full and already fired up. Also noted the stands at large were filling up faster than usual. There were a few UC fans around me, but they were mostly in isolated single seats. I can report the ones around me were pretty subdued, yes they cheered at team approprate moments, but not even annoying really.

As you might expect, the Bearcats brought their cheerleaders, their mascot, and even their gigantic flag. In other words, the usual. One of the funny moments before the game was when the Bearcat and the Blue Blob were out on the court togehter, and the Bearcat comes out with a large Pac Man shaped clapboard and proceeds to go after Blue Blob like he was eating a ghost. Hey, credit to cleverness where due.

The Schola Cantorum sang the national anthem, and I thought the sound system was turned a bit low, a problem which was resolved somewhat later in the evening.

For team introductions, as has already been reported the big surprise was the really neat "X" field light show. I hope we get to see that again sometime, in fact I would not mind that becoming a permanent feature. Imagine if you will giant "X"'s in the same font as the logo appearing on the court, then they start multiplying with more and more coming on, then they start spinning around in a flurry of motion., eventually all zooming towards center court to highlight the Musketeer waving the flag. Very impressive.

During home team introductions, the Bearcat stood on center court reading the paper, an obvious reference to the traditional student section paper reading during guest introductions.

Oh, and I think everybody breathed a sigh of relief when the lights came back on. :)

Then the game started...

Okay, UC gets the tip, no problem so far. UC scored the first points, a trey, but we soon looked like we would get back into it. Then as we all know someone put a lid on our basket. It seemed like we could not buy a bucket, the only saving grace was that UC wasn't faring much better on their end of the court. I knew that we were in for the usual Shootout experience, where the lead flip flops back and foth and no one ever gets up more than 5 points. Crosstown Blowout, yeah right.

I think the crowd was pumped at tip off and for the first few minutes or so it seemed like we came out of the gate running, but as we kept missing more shots, I could see the wind being taken out of the fans sails. I wouldn't say it was quiet around me, but crys of "ARRRRGGHHHH!","NOOOOOOOO!!", "NOT AGAIN!!!!" were replacing positive cheering.

Its always a humbling experience when the team that the "experts" say you should dominating is dominating you. Oh, there were some nice shots every now and then, small glimers of light. To go back to the four minute wars concept, here is how the first half played out:

16:00 media time out: Tied at 7
12:00 media time out: Down 1 12-13, despite building a 5 point lead.
8:00 media time out: Down 2 17-19
4:00 media time out: Down 4 17-21
That's right, 1 score in the whole "war", I want to say the scores stayed low due to excellent defense on both sides, or it could be a wide variety of ill advised shots. You may recall last year's game had some scoring droughts as well. I wonder if because both teams lay their heart and soul of on the floor for this game, that there may just bee a whole higher level of pressure to perform.

Then - things started getting ugly. As one of my friends quipped after the game "That was a football game disguised as a basketball game" as the game degenerated into classic street basketball, you know "No harm,no foul",well thats how this game we being called. I know we often want the officials to stay out of the game, but this was fast becoming a very physical game.

THEN, all of a sudden we have 8 or 9 guys on the floor fighting over the basketball like it was made of solid gold. I like to see the "Never say die" enthusiasm, but I suppose those closer to the action can verify that tempers flared, trash talk was exchanged, and the situation had to be defused. The officials defused the situation with a nice double technical (Burrell/Warren), which if you have to have a technical, at least that way no one got any uncontested free throws, and it was, I'm sure intended to put both teams on notice that this is a college game, not a neighborhood playground game.

While the officials were sorting this all out, the classic "UC SUCKS" chant started in the student section, and it looked like from my seat it was quickly quieted down when Fr. Graham stared over to the student section like "Knock it off, NOW!"

The half sort of peters out from there, but then kudos to Josh Duncan for the buzzer beater trey to give us a 4 point lead, and the momentum going into intermission. This helps to revive the crowd that was sitting there in a state of shock and awe wondering "How is this game so close?"

The halftime show wasn't much to write home about, it was a contest from Skyline. At first I thought they were setting up for some super deluxe game of Beer Pong. Instead it was bowling. Each contestant got one roll to roll a basketball towards somewhere around 100 Skyline Chili large takeout cups. Person to get the most down got a years worth of Skyline, the loser still walked away with a $100 gift card. The first person rolled and knocked down 56 cups according to the official scorer. The second person really hammed it up, which is usually an invitation to be served a nice large slice of humble pie, but then he proceeded to roll, well if it wasn't a strike (all cups down) it was very close. I was still able to run down and get a fresh beer. The halftime stats people printed the stats on paper with a big GO X! on the back instead of the usual advertisement. Oh, BTW, I vividly recall X coming out on the floor first for warm ups for the second half, to dispel that rumor.

Then the second half started.

The second half was more of the same as the first.

Halftime: 29-25 - The Good Guys
16:00 time out - 37-32 Good Guys - Hey, it looks like things may be improving!

At 12:56 - That was when Gentry takes a knee (from a fellow Bearcat) to the head, HARD. I saw the spill, and unlike most falls in basketball, Gentry did not get back up, in fact he didn't even make a movement. That was when I got worried. We had the medical time out, and the longer Gentry laid there, the quieter the arena became. After the signal was given for the waiting EMT crew to appear, the whole arena hushed down as quiet as a church. No music from band or PA which made the quiet in the arena that much more noticeable. As the delay persisted the silence turned into a hushed murmur of the "Can you see whats happening?" "I hope he's gonna be alright" variety. It may be a rivlary game, but we are all human at heart, and for 10 minutes the rivlary was put on hold, and it looked as if everybody was genuinely concerned. I know from my seat in 208 it looked very bad. It looked as if it could very well be critical. The sight of anybody being carrying off on a stretcher during a game is very sobering, and not an experience I ever want to have again. As the medcical team hoisted Gentry up onto the stretcher, the crowd rose to its feet and gave Gentry a very dignified round of applause. Then it stopped for a few seconds, and then resumed as he was being taken out of the arena, and continued until he was outside of the arena bowl.

Then as soon as the teams took the floor again, the rivalry was back on, in a heartbeat.

12:00 timeout: 40 ALL - It's nailbiting time again. This timeout was very confusing as this is when Duncan went down, which did not see. I just thought the teams were going to timeout, then realized something was wrong. At first a wheelchair was being rolled out, but we can all be releved that Duncan was able to walk on his own power. The crowd stood and gave Duncan appluase, true not as prolific as for Gentry, but the injury looked no where near as severe. Even the UC fans in my area applauded during Duncan's ovation.

At the 8:00 media timeout, the enthusiasm usually generated by the Ball Toss was somewhat tempered as UC went up 43-48! The person behind me calls a buddy on his cell phone to have them play then the song "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey. I start to have very real concerns about how I will face my UC fan co workers in the morning.

The final media timeout occurs with the score at 51-53 Bad Guys. The game is now on.

With 2:35 left, the score gets tied up, and from this point on, at least in section 208 and it looked like in the other sections around me, that the crowd was on its feet for the duration of the game, if you weren't standing up, you didn't see the game. I saw a level of cheering that you just don't see too often. People who you didn't think knew how to cheer, an be loud and obnoxious wee cheering loud and proud. I think the crowd energy is what started THE RUN.

We go on the run to get the lead up to 6, then the Free Throw Parade starts. Also known as the longest minute n your life. This is that part of the game where the losing team starts taking their chances sending the winning team to the free throw line and hoping they miss their free throws, which when you are only dealing with the BONUS situation and not the double bonus is an appealing risk. All to get the ball back into your posession.

Here is where we can rest easy that they did take their 100 free throw practice, as they were able to make the free throws when they mattered the most. By the time the carnage was almost over, we had run the lead up to a respectable 8 points, the highest lead of the game, but don't get comfortable, a buzzer beater 3 by UC ends the game at 64-59 Good Guys.

The crowd erupts in loud cheering and jubilation. With no one having left the game early, I knew not to be too eager to get out of the arena. I had planned on sticking around and watching Coach Miller's comments on the scorecube, and stuck around till they started turning off the lights. I got the hint, and we got out to the parking lot, and there was still a backup of cars leaving. Turned on the radio, and it seemed to still take forever to hear the commentary.

All in all, everybody got the full $26 worth of basketball they paid for. I can hope that our team learned a lot about zone defense, specifically how to thwart it. If they learn something, anything from this brutal game, it will be worth it, if they learned something and still get the "W", thats wonderful.

The blue spirit hair just might have to come back to Cintas Center for special occasions, as I recieved a LOT of positive feedback on it from those who sit around me, to just people I passed walking on the concourse.

Now its Thursday, and I must admit, yeah we got the "W" but it was not very satisfying from the perspective that just didn't have it in me to talk the smack with aforementioned UC loving co workers. I mean, I have learned over the years to keep a low profile BEFORE the game, but now I didn't really get to enjoy it as the UC fans were quick to point out how much of a struggle they put up.

I mean I still pinned the ticket stub onto the Xavier flag in my office as I can still use it to deflect any incoming smack talk for a year.

But, as someone else suggested it's over, time to refocus on Arizona State. It's true they didn't cause us much trouble last year, but remember we are in their house this year. Road games are always tough, time to rally behind the troops and go for 9-1.

In parting: Best of wishes and a speedy recovery and return to the basketball floor for Duncan and Gentry.


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