Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 12/10/11
CINCINNATI It was supposed to a celebratory moment, and its possible that when the new polls come out Monday Xaviers basketball team will be ranked as high as its ever been. But Saturdays blowout of rival Cincinnati will instead be remembered for the brawl that ended the game with almost 10 seconds left to play and the way Xaviers players seemed to revel in it. There was shame and blame on both sides for a scene that turned ugly quickly, and Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said he spent much of the second half asking the officials to step in to prevent such an occurrence. By the end of a fight that cleared both benches, Xavier center Kenny Frease lay face first, bleeding, at midcourt and Xavier point guard Tu Holloway was standing on the scorers table inciting the crowd and Cincinnatis players as they were being escorted off the court. TV replays showed Frease was knocked to the ground by a punch by Cincinnatis Yancy Gates. Frease crawled away from the scrum, which started next to Cincinnatis bench, and walked towards midcourt. He dropped to his knees, then to his stomach, and when he was helped up he was bleeding profusely under his left eye. Some of the first Cintas Center staffers on the floor essentially had to step over Frease to get to the other end of the floor to help break up the brawl. It started with shoves and ended with Xaviers Andre Walker being punched multiple times and dozens of coaches, trainers, staffers and police separating the sides. Thats what youre going to see in this rivalry, said Holloway, who admitted to being one of the instigators. Things like that happen in basketball sometimes. No, not like that. Ive never been this embarrassed, Cronin said. Xavier Coach Chris Mack was trying to pull Holloway down from the scorers table at the end of the fight. Xaviers players were escorted off the floor, then returned to the court to celebrate with the student section after the Bearcats left the floor. Cronin said his players were as much to blame as anybody else and that his players would have to decide if they wanted to remain part of the program. He said he made every player in the locker room turn in his jersey and some of them, I physically took them off of them. Holloway and Mark Lyons represented Xavier in the postgame press conference and, frankly, didnt do a memorable job of representing themselves and the Xavier program. We're a tougher team, Holloway said. We're grown men over here. We've got a whole bunch of gangsters in our locker room. Not thugs but tough guys on the court. We went out there and zipped em up. Thats what we said we were going to do, zip em up. Said Lyons: At the end of the day, if somebody put their hands in your face or try to do something to you, where were from, we are going to try to do something back. We are not going to sit there and get our face beat in by somebody like Yancy Gates or someone like that. We arent going to let that happen. In fairness, no Cincinnati players were made available to the media after the game. Perhaps they would have made some regrettable comments, too. Lyons led all scorers with 19 points. He also might have led all instigators. Lyons jawed with some Cincinnati players before the game and continued during the National Anthem as the teams faced one another at opposite ends of the floor. On the final possession of the first half Lyons jawed with the Cincinnati bench while Holloway dribbled at the top of the key, and after the halftime buzzer he was confronted on the court by Cincinnatis Octavius Ellis. The officials separated the players, checked the video replay of the incident and Mack said both teams were warned that further talk would result in technical fouls. Ellis did not play in the game. He was one of many players throwing punches and in some cases, kicks and stomps during the game-ending fight. Both teams face suspensions for players conduct and for players leaving the bench area. That whole scene, its embarrassing, Cronin said. To be a part of that, are you kidding me? Its a complete embarrassment no matter who started what. Toughness is doing the right thing. True toughness, you walk away from it. You take your ass-whipping and go home. Cronin that he repeatedly asked the officials to stop the trash talk between the teams. He said Xavier players were talking to his bench when he tried to call timeout with under 15 seconds left I asked the officials to try and stop it. Cronin said. Thats where Im upset the most. I saw (Xavier players) talking to our bench they were talking to assistant coaches. I saw it tried to call timeout. I had repeatedly asked the officials to stop it. Said Mack: Im really disappointed in the way both teams conducted themselves down the stretch. Holloway said Xavier was disrespected by a game-week radio interview in which Cincinnatis Sean Kirkpatrick answered a question by saying Holloway, regarded as one of the best point guards in the country, wouldnt start at Cincinnati. Cronins response to that: Thats ridiculous. Grow up. The game itself ended 76-53, Xaviers biggest win in the series since 1997 and full redemption for a 20-point loss at Cincinnati last year. The final score will be a footnote, even if 8-0 Xavier climbs from No. 8, a spot off its highest ranking ever, in next weeks polls. One of college basketballs best rivalries hit rock bottom, and consequences for players on both sides await.
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