Muskies Own Share of Big East Title in Win Over Providence
The Xavier Musketeers Men's Basketball team clinched a share of at least a share of their first ever Big East regular season championship on Wednesday in an 84-74 win over Providence. The No. 3 ranked Muskies got a senior night win in front of the 18th sellout crowd at Cintas Center this season and improved their record to 26-4. Senior guard Trevon Bluiett led the way in scoring with 23 points. Providence suffered its 8th loss in Big East play this season and fall to 18-12.
The game began with back-to-back turnovers for the Friars with Xavier taking advantage of the scoring opportunities. The Muskies jumped out to a 2-0 lead before a crafty layup by Providence tied the game up. Xavier struggled to shoot the ball in the first four minutes of the game and continued to do so for the remainder of the half. The Musketeers made only 2 of 10 attempted three-pointers in the first half (20%). The Muskies went 14-33 from the field and were heavily carried by Trevon Bluiett and Quentin Goodin, both scoring 11 points in the opening half.
Trevon Bluiett drained a three-pointer and a tough fade-away corner jump shot on consecutive possessions to give Xavier a 9-2 lead. Kerem Kanter had a run of his own as well, electrifying the crowd with 6 straight points, forcing Providence to call a timeout. A dribble-drive layup by Quentin Goodin gave Xavier an 11-point lead, though Providence would come storming back just minutes later. A Friar And-1 with 2 minutes left in the half cut the Xavier lead to 7. Tyrique Jones threw down a big dunk on the following possession, but the Friars would not go away. Providence scored four more points in the closing minutes of the half, including a buzzer-beating layup to cut Xavier's lead to 40-37 going into halftime.
Senior Sean O'Mara began the second half with monster dunk and J.P Macura followed the next possession with a transition layup. Xavier went on a 10-2 run in the first 2:20 of the half, causing Providence to call a timeout. J.P. Macura dribbled through the Friar defense in a coast to coast layup, and O'Mara put down another huge dunk as the Musketeer faithful erupted. Kerem Kanter scored back to back hook shots in the paint for Xavier, giving them a 59-47 lead with 13:15 left in the game. Kanter ended the game with 10 points.
Providence crept back in a physical and nail-biting second half as they applied pressure to the Muskie offence in a full-court press. Quentin Goodin gave the ball up twice as he attempted to dribble through the trap, turning into scoring opportunities for the Friars. Providence cut the Xavier lead to 5 but would come no closer to victory as the Muskies continued to pass efficiently and make big shots when needed. The game ended with a 10-point Xavier lead, allowing all seniors to check out of the game during regulation to receive a standing ovation, aside from J.P. Macura who fouled out on a questionable call.
Xavier now holds at least a share of the Big East regular season title following their 84-74 win. The Musketeers will be back in action on Saturday in their final game of the regular season against the Blue Demons of DePaul University. With a win, the Musketeers will be outright champions of the Big East for the first time in school history. Tip-off is set for noon in Chicago.