The Xavier Musketeers and Providence Friars met in their respective Big East openers on Wednesday night. By game’s end, the two performances could not have contrasted each other anymore.
Xavier steamrolled Providence, maintaining their unbeaten record at home, and tacked on their first Big East win of the year by defeating the Friars 82-56. The win is the fourth in a row for the Musketeers over Ed Cooley’s bunch dating back to 2015 and marks the third Big East opener that Xavier has won in their four years in the conference.
The game was hardly close at times as Xavier muscled their way to a 24-9 lead at one point in the game. It took until the 2:13 mark in the first half for Providence to hit the 20-point threshold as they were stymied by familiar stretches of inefficiency which is something that has plagued PC over the past few years. The Musketeers feasted on that and built their lead up even more as they held a lead as large as 27 (62-35 at 11:35) in this curbstomping.
Xavier’s star Trevon Bluiett led the way, scoring 22 points on 14 shots and falling one rebound and assist shy of a triple double. While Bluiett shot just 3-for-8 from the 3-point line, the team as a whole shot a hearty 40 percent on 20 attempts, doing enough to outpace their opponents. Four of Xavier’s five starters hit double figures as RaShid Gaston, JP Macura and Edmond Sumner chipped in 12, 11 and 13 points respectively to go along with Bluiett’s 22.
For Providence, it was Isaiah Jackson and Jalen Lindsey who led the charge with 31 combined points. Jackson had the high mark of 16 points on the night, but the Friars’ troubles were square on the shoulders of Rodney Bullock. Bullock, who played superbly during the first two months of the year, shot just 1-for-11 from the field and 0-for-2 from the 3-point line. Emmitt Holt had a night to forget as well, scoring only four points and committing just as many fouls.
3 things we learned
Providence absolutely needs Rodney Bullock’s contributions
It won’t come as a shock that Providence needs their star player to contribute, but that was supremely evident on Wednesday night. The Friars have to hope that Bullock’s struggles are merely just a flash on the pan, especially so on the road as the games are fixing to only get stiffer going forward.
Xavier’s 3-point shooting is steadily rising
After a dismal performance against Colorado, Xavier has bounced back from beyond the arc. In their last four games, Xavier has shot 40 percent or better in three of them (Utah, Eastern Washington and Wed. vs. Providence). It comes as no surprise that those performances have come at home, so the big test to see if this is sticking will arrive on Saturday when the Musketeers go to Washington D.C. to face Georgetown.
Xavier is starting to show their worth
The Musketeers have won their last two games now by 29 and 26 points. That’s a pretty impressive margin of victory no matter the opponent, and when you consider that the Friars are a Top 75 victory on KenPom, it looks even better that they were able to pummel them in the fashion that they did. X is looking like the team many thought they’d be at the start of the season, and that’s not good news for anyone else in the conference.