Cincinnati forward Yancy Gates, right, punches Xavier guard Landen Amos during a fight in the closing moments of their rivalry game Saturday in Cincinnati. Suspensions were handed down Sunday.
CINCINNATI —Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates got a six-game suspension Sunday for throwing punches at No. 8 Xavier, and seven other players were disciplined for their roles in a brawl that ended the annual crosstown rivalry game.
Four Bearcats and four Musketeers were suspended in all. Three Cincinnati players got six-game suspensions, the longest of those handed out.
Gates punched Xavier’s Kenny Frease in the face, causing a nasty gash below his left eye, and hit at least one other Musketeer during the fracas on Saturday, which prompted the referees to call Xavier’s 76-53 win with 9.4 seconds left. The Bearcats also gave Cheikh Mbodj and Octavius Ellis six-game suspensions. Ge’Lawn Guyn was suspended for one game.
Xavier suspended point guard Tu Holloway for one game, guard Mark Lyons for two, and Dez Wells and Landen Amos for four games each.
Frease was the most badly injured, getting punched and kicked. He had blood streaming from the cut beneath his left eye and was woozy after the game. X-rays were normal, the school said Sunday.
The brawl left both programs with a black eye, prompting repeated apologies by both schools.
It started in the closing seconds when Holloway talked to the Cincinnati bench. Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick had said during the week leading up to the game that Holloway wasn’t good enough to start for the Bearcats.
Holloway wanted the last word, and started talking to coaches and players on the Cincinnati bench with the clock stopped at 9.4 seconds. Guyn was standing by Holloway and pushed him in the face. Wells responded by pushing down Guyn. Gates was holding the ball and threw it at Holloway’s head, prompting both benches to clear.
At a news conference on Sunday, Holloway took responsibility for instigating it.
“Coach (Chris) Mack always reminds me, ‘You’re a leader of this team. The young guys are going to do what you’re going to do,’” Holloway said. “If I would’ve never talked to (UC’s) bench or if I wouldn’t have said anything to their players, maybe Dez Wells wouldn’t be suspended four games. The result of what I did, I kind of brought him down, I brought Mark Lyons down, I brought the rest of my teammates down because of what I did out there on the floor.”
Players went at each other in the scrum. As the fight wound down, Gates stood by the Cincinnati bench with fists raised in a boxing pose.
The suspensions will affect only one Big East game, the Bearcats’ league opener at Pittsburgh on Jan. 1.
“We want to deal with this in a prompt and direct manner and send the message that we will not tolerate this from those who have the privilege of representing the University of Cincinnati,” athletics director Whit Babcock said in a statement.
Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said after the game that he would decide whether anybody should be kicked off the team for their actions. He also said he took the players’ jerseys away to make the point that their conduct was unacceptable.
Babcock, who was hired from Missouri in October, apologized for the fracas.
“We hold our student-athletes to a very high standard and take very seriously the role that our entire department plays in reflecting the overall image of this great university,” Babcock said. “We will continue to work diligently to represent the Bearcat family and the Cincinnati community in a first-class manner. There will be zero tolerance for a repeat of this behavior.”
Gates is Cincinnati’s top frontcourt player. He’ll miss games against Wright State, Radford, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Chicago State, Oklahoma and the Bearcats’ Big East opener at Pittsburgh.
Cincinnati consulted with the Big East over the penalties.
“The very unfortunate events that occurred in the final seconds of Saturday’s Cincinnati-Xavier basketball game have no place within intercollegiate athletics,” Big East Commissioner John Marinatto said. “The University of Cincinnati has responded with swift, expeditious and appropriate action, which the Big East Conference fully supports.”
Xavier (8-0) handed out penalties that will extend through the Musketeers’ appearance at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii over Christmas. They are off next week for finals, and resume on Sunday at home against Oral Roberts. The following three games are in Hawaii.
Holloway and Xavier athletics director Mike Bobinski said on Sunday that they regretted the point guard’s use of the term “gangsters” to describe the Musketeers’ toughness in a postgame news conference.
The rivalry has taken on a hard edge over the years, with trash talking, occasional shoving and technical fouls the norm in games. The first all-out brawl raised questions about whether it should continue.
“Should we not play the game anymore?” Bobinski said. “I think that’s a bad idea. I think that’s sort of giving in to the events of yesterday. But I only believe that if we can change the dynamic of the game.
“I’ve spoken with Whit Babcock, and we’ve agreed to work together to make this a positive event and a celebration of the Division I basketball that’s played in the city of Cincinnati and not the Hatfield and McCoy event that it’s turned into over the years.”
Mack choked up on Sunday when he talked about the fight.
“The ending embarrasses me,” Mack said. “It’s really difficult to explain to my 5- and 6-year old girls why a fight ensued at the end of the game. Got a lot of emails last might from a lot of other parents having to explain to their 8- or 9-year-old at the game what ensued.
“I’d like to apologize for not doing a better job. I should’ve called a timeout. I should’ve taken my starters off the floor. I made a mistake. I believed at the time in what I was doing. I felt like calling a timeout for our seniors to walk off the court in celebration would only antagonize the situation. I was hoping time would expire. I made the wrong decision.”