Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 12/11/11
CINCINNATI Xavier-Cincinnati is a Forever Game, not just this year but every year, the kind of rivalry game that makes legends and stories remembered for years to come. Yancy Gates and Tu Holloway have been in enough of these games, known locally as the Crosstown Shootout, that they should have known that long before the events of Saturday afternoons brawl. Now, what happened is going to follow both. Forever. Folks here remember Crosstown Shootout moments good and bad, from Bob Huggins non-handshakes to the two times the nations No. 1 team went down, to Holloway scoring 26 in an overtime win when he was a sophomore. Holloway only scoring five in this game last year was bad, and now he has this. This is worse. Its bad for Gates, too, as hes a Cincinnati native, a guy who grew up with this game and a guy who was supposed to use his senior season to finally reach his potential, put a happy ending on a story of redemption and persistence. Both players, both supposed leaders, let their teams and their universities down. Badly. And because they did it in the Forever Game, both will deal with what happened for a long time. Its going to sting them soon in the form of suspensions, and Gates status as a repeat maker of poor decisions and the way he was throwing punches during Saturdays brawl make it possible hell never play for Cincinnati again. Officially, hes suspended for six games, the university announced Sunday. Hell have to prove to coach Mick Cronin following the suspension that he wants to come back. Based on the number of times Cronin used the word embarrassed on Saturday, it seems far from sure that Gates will play for Cincinnati again. Its going to sting both Gates and Holloway again in the spring as NBA teams are going to have lots of questions. All 30 NBA teams covet players with Gates size, but all 30 will have one primary question: Can we trust you? The secondary line of questioning will be similar to what theyll ask Holloway. What were you thinking? Reveling in the fight, blaming it on being disrespected in a radio interview, saying its part of the game and what people want to see? Saying in the postgame press conference that you have a bunch of gangsters in the locker room? Forget that NBA teams already would prefer their point guards a little bigger than Holloway is. They as do college coaches prefer that their point guards be mature and poised leaders, especially in the case of a 22-year-old senior like Holloway is. Holloway led on the court in the footnote that Xaviers 23-point win has become, as he almost always does. But his constant talk to Cincinnatis bench and actions on the floor basically incited a riot. He made indirect references to putting Cincinnati into a bodybag, which can be construed as just a metaphor and locker-room talk but would also fall squarely into the category of bad judgment. Really bad. From courtside, it appeared Xaviers Mark Lyons started leading the trash-talk parade before the game ever began and stopped only when officials were in earshot and only after being formally warned. Holloway was a part of it, too, and whatever Holloway said to make Gates throw the ball at him led directly to the fight. Before long, Xaviers Kenny Frease was on the ground and being kicked and Xaviers Dez Wells was one of a handful of players throwing multiple punches near the baseline. Wells, an uber-athletic freshman, is the type of guy that can push Xavier deep into March. The story of Saturdays game should have been Xaviers dominance, its veterans playing like theyre expected to and Wells contributions being both the exclamation point and maybe and eventually the missing link. If Holloway, Lyons and Wells or some combination of the three are suspended for any amount of time, Xaviers chances of remaining undefeated well into 2012 decrease significantly. And though the goal is to be undefeated in March and not necessarily in December and January, Xavier is talented enough to think it can win every game on its schedule. Whether Xavier loses once, three times or not at all, a full-strength Musketeers team is both a legitimate March contender and a national story. Now that story will always include Holloways gangsters comment and footage of Holloway standing atop the scorers table, Xavier coach Chris Mack trying to drag him down. If Xavier goes to the Elite Eight, the clip of the fight and Holloway saying we have a bunch of gangsters in our locker room will be shown, oh, about 800 times. If Xavier goes out early, the headlines will read Gangsters Go Down. Surely, the clip of a bloody Frease collapsing at midcourt will be part of that package. It might be the only time Gates gets on TV again. Forever Game. Gates threw the ball at Holloway and several of Gates teammates took that as an invitation to come on the floor, feet and fists flying. Gates floored Frease with a punch and then stood there, hands up and fists clenched, like he was George Foreman. Bodies flew. Punches flew. Legacies were written. Forever Game. And for two talented players who should know better, forever shame.
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