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  • Writer's pictureBen Hicks

How a Crutch Provided the Spark for a Citywide Rivalry

Cincinnati, Ohio - Located in Norwood is Xavier University, a private Jesuit institution with an undergraduate enrollment of just 5,000 students. Just three miles across town lies the University of Cincinnati, a public research institution with an enrollment six times that of their bitter rival. Both schools have history and tradition rooted deep in the game of basketball, and time and time again throughout the 94 years these schools have been battling on the hardwood, hostility and animosity has run rampant.

Everyone across the city remembers the infamous 2011 brawl in which amidst benches-clearing chaos, numerous players from both sides were bloodied, resulting in the suspension of eight players and the national condemnation of both universities. The aftermath of that fight would change the name and venue of the rivalry, but the moments, memories, and overall disdain for the other side for the better half of a century remained true.

However, without much of the fanfare and starpower of today’s rivalry, a pivotal, yet often overlooked moment in the Crosstown Shootout occurred late in the 1967 meeting, which naturally came to be known infamously as “The Crutch Game.”

In the midst of the most extraordinary decade in program history, powerhouse Cincinnati had beaten Xavier eleven straight seasons. During that eleven game win streak, UC reached five consecutive Final Fours, and claimed back-to-back national championships. Despite the losing streak, Xavier had also claimed an NIT Championship during that period. All the hype and fanfare surrounding the two programs led up the cool evening of Friday, March 3, 1967, when just over 10,000 fans packed UC’s Armory Fieldhouse for the annual Crosstown Shootout.

Despite not meeting preseason national expectations, the Bearcats were expected to easily handle a mediocre Xavier squad for the 12th consecutive year. It was a typical rivalry matchup as the two teams were level on the scoreboard as the end of the game neared.

The infamous incident occurred with about two minutes remaining in regulation, as Xavier’s Joe Pangrazio and Cincinnati’s Raleigh Wynn raced after a loose ball near midcourt. The ball had last touched a Bearcat, and Pangrazio put his body in front of Wynn to prevent him from diving after it. In Pangrazio’s words, Wynn then “threw me into the handicapped section.”

Sitting in that section was Nick Anzer, a young boy on crutches with a badly broken ankle. What happened next sums up the rivalry between Cincinnati and Xavier to the full extent. Pangrazio grabbed one of Anzer’s crutches, and hurled it towards Wynn. The shot connected, and absolute melee broke out. Both players were ejected, and the Bearcats kept the streak alive, winning the game 79-69 in overtime.

However, Pangrazio was a senior starter the next year when Xavier finally ended the Bearcats’ winning streak, beating Cincinnati 72-71 at Cincinnati Gardens in March of 1968.

Nowadays, Xavier, currently sitting at 6-3, is taking a trip back to the future as former head coach Sean Miller is back and looking to lead the Musketeers to a fourth consecutive Shootout victory. Wes Miller’s Cincinnati, also at 6-3, is looking to ascend their program back to the promised land of years’ past and beat their bitter rivals for the first time since 2018. This year’s Crosstown Shootout will take place on Saturday, December 10, at Cincinnati’s Fifth Third Arena.

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