WALT McBRIDE knows the Crosstown Shootout: the buildup, the intensity, the hate. He was a Xavier forward 27 years ago when a Cincinnati player unloaded on a teammate as the two ran down the court. He has lived in the Queen City nearly his entire life, coached high school basketball there for 12 years and sent players to schools both local and out of state. But he has never felt anything like the tension he is feeling right now in the latest battle between these two teams.
It is Dec. 10, and he's two rows behind the Cincinnati bench, sporting his black Xavier hat and blue Xavier shirt and holding his breath. The normally exhaustive levels of anxiety in the arena are morphing into something else -- something more dangerous -- and he can't take his eyes off Bearcats forward Yancy Gates, his former high school star.
The game started with a fan yelling "F--- Cincinnati" during the national anthem. The taunting and trash-talking continued for the next two hours, becoming so bad that at one point McBride yelled at Xavier guard Mark Lyons to just shut up and play.
Now, though, in the closing seconds of a lopsided Musketeers win, McBride witnesses the moment he has been dreading. With the Musketeers ahead by 23 points, Xavier forward Dez Wells shoves Cincinnati guard Ge'Lawn Guyn to the floor. A second later, Gates heaves the basketball at Wells' head. "It was the best pass I've ever seen him throw," McBride says. "And after that -- that's when it erupted."