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December 12, 2007
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Technical fouls. Injured players helped off the court. Frenzied lead changes in the closing minutes. The crosstown rivalry included everything that has made it famous, except for the big upset.
Derrick Brown saw to that.
Brown took the game firmly into his left shooting hand and scored 11 points in the final 7 minutes Wednesday night, rallying No. 17 Xavier to a 64-59 victory over Cincinnati that perfectly fit their rough-and-tumble tradition.
"I had to change my way of thinking," said Brown, who asserted himself and finished with a career-high 17 points.
Needed more than ever after senior forward Josh Duncan was helped off the court after hurting his left knee, Brown became the latest player to emerge on the city's biggest stage.
The sophomore forward put Xavier (8-1) ahead to stay 55-53 on his driving dunk with 2:01 to go. He added a pair of free throws as the Musketeers extended it to 59-53, then held on from the free-throw line.
"This is different from any other game," senior guard Stanley Burrell said. "It's emotional and guys are fighting, there are technical fouls. We wanted to set the tone, and that's what we did tonight. We made the plays down the stretch to win it."
Heading into the game, it seemed that Cincinnati (4-5) was much farther away from Xavier than the 3 1/2 miles that separate them. The Bearcats are off to their worst start in 22 years, and had showed little fight so far.
This one brought out the best in them. And, in Brown as well.
"We let him get in the lane," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. "If you let him get in the lane and shoot layups, he's going to make them all. He's 6-foot-9 and jumps over everybody.
"We played 37 minutes of really good basketball. The last 3 minutes we didn't execute defensively. That's where we got beat."
Stunning upsets have been the hallmark of the series, usually with Xavier knocking off a highly touted Bearcats team. Playing with its highest ranking since the end of the 2002-03 season, Xavier had to reach deep to prevent another.
"When the ball's on the floor, it's like a dog going after a bone," Cincinnati forward John Williamson said. "It was a street fight."
A no-holds-barred tone was set in a first half that featured seven lead changes, two personal fouls and one forearm to the face -- vintage rivalry.
Both teams lost starters to injury in the rough second half. Cincinnati forward Marvin Gentry was taken off the court on a neck board as a precaution after he ran into teammate Deonta Vaughn's knee while going for a loose ball.
"I've been told Marvin's fine," Cronin said. "It was just a precaution."
Duncan had to be helped off the court after he was pushed from behind and landed hard during a tussle for a rebound. Duncan will get tests Thursday on his left knee.
"The initial diagnosis is favorable," coach Sean Miller said.
At least one of the teams has been ranked in 11 of the past 15 games. This time, Xavier had everything on the line.
Played like it, too.
The Musketeers have shot better than 50 percent from the field in five games so far, but shot only 32 percent in the first half and got outrebounded 26-16.
The rivalry brought out the best in Cincinnati, which played with more passion than it had all season. The Bearcats even showed some swagger for the first time.
The tone was set when the 225-pound Williamson set a screen on Xavier's Drew Lavender, his burly forearm catching the 5-foot-7 point guard in the face. Later in the first half, a double technical foul was called when Burrell and Cincinnati's Jamual Warren exchanged words after a pileup that involved all 10 players.
"It was rough," Burrell said of the pileup. "Guys were trying to gets shots in under the pile where the refs can't see them."
There were more words as the teams walked past each other at halftime, which ended with Xavier up 29-25. Duncan made Xavier's first three baskets of the second half, all on power moves, as the Musketeers went inside and pulled ahead 35-29, their biggest lead to that point. After he left, Cincinnati rallied.
Larry Davis and Rashad Bishop hit 3-pointers in an 8-0 run that gave the Bearcats a 48-43 lead with 6:47 to go, matching their biggest lead of the game. That's when Brown took over, sending Cincinnati to its worst start since 1985-86.