When schedules for Division I men’s basketball teams were released over the summer, it was a matchup that garnered little attention. But when Sean Kilpatrick and the Cincinnati Bearcats visited Wright State in Dayton, Ohio, this past Wednesday, the game attracted national attention.
Kilpatrick, the former White Plains High School star and Tigers' all-time leading scorer, and the Bearcats were under the microscope because of what happened in their previous game – a 76-53 loss to crosstown rival Xavier.
The game was called by officials with 9.4 seconds remaining when a fight broke out in front of the Cincinnati bench after Xavier star Tu Holloway shouted taunts to Cincinnati players and coaches.
Multiple punches were thrown, and one player, Xavier center Kenny Frease, suffered a black eye and bloodied face. Graphics images of the ugly incident were replayed continuously on TV and the Internet and four players from each team were suspended various amounts of games, with two Cincinnati players drawing six-game suspensions being the most heavily penalized.
Kilpatrick was right in the middle of the advance buildup to the game when, in a radio interview, he was asked who he thought was better – he or Holloway. After pausing, Fitzpatrick reluctantly answered that he thought he was. He was then asked if thought Holloway would start at Cincinnati, and he said he didn’t think he would, but went on to praise Holloway’s abilities.
But that was enough for Xavier students. Some of them, among the crowd of 10,250 at the Cintas Center, chanted “Who’s Kilpatrick?” late in the game when Kilpatrick, a 6-foot-5 wing forward who finished the game with 11 points, was shooting free throws.
In the post game press conference, Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said Kilpatrick did not intend to slight Holloway in any way.
“Our sports information department made a mistake by putting him (Kilpatrick) on (the radio show) with somebody that was going to provoke him,” Cronin said. “The kid (Kilpatrick) said he (Holloway) was a great player to start off then people want to make something of it. I mean, who cares, at the end of the day. What's that got to do anything?”
Kilpatrick, an all-state honoree who averaged 28.4 points in his four years on the White Plains varsity team, had plenty to do with the way the Bearcats responded on the court following the brawl.
Minus the four injured players, Cincinnati rolled to a 78-58 win over a weak Wright State team and Kilpatrick poured in a game-high 20 points, including a career-high six three-pointers. He then had 16 points and five rebounds as the Bearcats, playing their first home game since the Xavier contest, beat Radford 101-70 on Saturday.
Selected as the star of the game against Wright State, Kilpatrick represented himself and his teammates well in the ESPN2 interview with reporter Andy Katz, saying the Bearcats are a family and that the adversity helped them pull together.
“That’s what Cincinnati basketball is all about,” color analyst Mark Adams said of Kilpatrick. “That’s a class young man.”