Cincinnati's 60-45 victory over Xavier wasn't the most well-played game in the series nor did it feature a dramatic finish, but the Bearcats and Musketeers exhibited all the qualities rivals should.
You'll remember Cincinnati wresting control early in the second half with high-intensity, high-effort defensive pressure. You'll remember Xavier guards Semaj Christon and Dee Davis valiantly trying to fight back despite debilitating leg cramps. And you'll remember the game ending in handshakes and hugs instead of raised fists and spilled blood.
An incident-free game one year after last December's infamous brawl was essential for the image of both Cincinnati and Xavier. With most of the key figures in the skirmish having graduated and the current players on their best behavior, the Musketeers and Bearcats were able to distance themselves from the stigma of last year's game and preserve the future of their historic rivalry.
That will probably provide little consolation to an overachieving Xavier team that entered with aspirations of an upset after a 7-2 start with a revamped roster. The Musketeers led at halftime because of their ferocious perimeter defense, but poor free throw shooting and an inability to create good shots against Cincinnati's defensive pressure derailed Xavier in the second half, especially with Davis and Christon hobbled.
After his team's victory, Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin advocated for the Crosstown Shootout to remain on a neutral court at U.S. Bank Arena in future years.
Quite often taking a rivalry game off campus prevents students from attending sucks the life out of the series. In this case, Cronin has a case. The atmosphere was raucous, the teams were competitive yet well-behaved and the future of the rivalry again looks bright.