Yancy Gates scored a season-high 22 points, and 24th-ranked Cincinnati extended the second-best start in school history, beating Xavier 66-46 on Thursday night to win back the city's backyard bragging rights.
Cincinnati's 15-0 start matches the 1998-99 team for second-best in school history.
No matter the circumstance, Xavier (8-5) had managed to get the better of its crosstown rival for years. The Musketeers had won three in a row and eight of 11 in the series, which often gets overheated. Xavier's Terrell "Tu" Holloway got a technical for throwing an elbow Thursday.
None of the Musketeers could stop Gates, a 6-foot-9, 265-pound power forward who scored most of his points on outside jumpers. He went 10 of 16 from the field and had 14 rebounds.
Xavier's only consistent scorer was forward Jamel McLean, who had 18 points. Holloway, the Musketeers' leading scorer at 21.3 points per game, managed only five on 2-of-13 shooting.
The annual game is one of the city's centerpiece sporting events. Baseball hits king Pete Rose — a Cincinnati native — and Pete Rose Jr. sat courtside.
This one meant a lot more to the Bearcats, who had home-court advantage, wore throwback uniforms and a pronounced edge in numbers. Xavier is down to nine scholarship players with freshman Jay Canty sidelined by a broken foot.
For the Bearcats, it came down to credibility. They tore through an easy nonconference schedule — ranked 335th out of 345 Division I teams — in front of a 13,000-seat arena that was less than half full most of the time. They moved into the Top 25 for the first time this week, and drew their first capacity crowd for the annual grudge match.
The Bearcats have lived in Xavier's basketball shadow for years. Cincinnati hasn't reached the NCAA tournament since 2005, Bob Huggins' last season as coach. Xavier has been there every year — one of only a dozen teams to make each of the last five tournaments.
The most-lopsided win in the series in nine years was another step in the Bearcats' comeback.
Xavier quieted the crowd by pulling out to a 10-4 lead, dominating upfront. Seven-foot center Kenny Frease had a jumper and a putback over Gates, who grew up in Cincinnati and appreciates the rivalry's lore.
Gates led the Bearcats back, hitting three jumpers during a 16-4 run that put Cincinnati ahead, pounding his chest after one of them. He also had the most emphatic play, blocking Frease's baseline shot and sending the brawny center sprawling on the floor.
Gates' fast-break layup made it 26-15 with 2:35 left in the half. He had 12 points in the half, making six of his seven shots.
After Xavier got the lead down to five, Gates hit a fadeaway 17-foot jumper that sparked an 11-2 run and pushed the lead to 46-31. Holloway got a technical during the run for throwing an elbow under the basket.
Gates' rebound and putback made it 58-41 with 6 minutes left, taking all the drama out of the final minutes. When he left the game with 36 seconds left, the fans chanted "Yancy! Yancy!"