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Musketeers hold off Friars

Xavier wins their third straight in a back-and-forth affair.

NCAA Basketball: Providence at Xavier Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

This had all of the makings of a close game. Both the Xavier Musketeers and Providence Friars entered play off of two big wins, beginning Saturday separated by just eight spots in NET and ten spots in KenPom. Xavier was favored by four.

The game wound living up to the hype. The six points that Xavier won by equated to the largest lead that either team had at any point throughout the game. There were six lead changes in the first half and another four in the second. In the end, Xavier prevailed 64-58.

Xavier got off to the better start, jumping out to a 16-10 lead. Providence countered with a 10-0 run, leading to one of the three times the Friars led by four in the first half. Xavier eventually recaptured a 28-26 lead but was held scoreless the last three minutes as the Friars went into the break up 30-28.

The Musketeers entered their matchup against the Friars 0-8 this season when trailing at halftime but were able to retake a 39-38 lead on a Kyky Tandy and-one with 15 minutes left. Providence went on a small run to build a 50-47 lead with nine minutes left, the Friars’ largest lead of the half. Xavier followed with a 9-3 run to take a lead that it wouldn’t relinquish as the Friars were held to just six points over the 7:17.

Neither team shot particularly well (both were under 45% from the field and under 27% from deep) and Xavier only outrebounded Providence 34-33. The difference for the Musketeers might have been ball control. Providence entered the game as one of the best teams at forcing turnovers while Xavier has struggled to avoid turnovers all season. Surprisingly, Xavier won the turnover battle 15-8.

Once again, Tyrique Jones was the star for the Musketeers as he recorded his sixth straight double-double with 14 points and 18 rebounds. Paul Scruggs added 13 points while leading the Musketeers with five assists. Freshmen Zach Freemantle and Tandy added 11 and ten points, respectively.

Nate Watson led the Friars with 16 points and seven boards while Alpha Diallo added 14 and David Duke scored 12. Duke, who entered the game shooting 46% from three, went 2-4 from deep. Meanwhile, sub-32% three-point shooter Diallo, Maliek White, and Luwane Pipkens combined to go 2-18 (11.1%) from deep. Go figure.

Xavier picks up what will likely wind up being a Quad 2 win and moves to 16-8 (5-6) on the season. The Musketeers, with a lack of bad losses, would figure to be on the right side of the bubble at the moment and needs to win four of its last seven in order to continue the nation’s longest streak of finishing .500 or better in conference play. They’ll travel to Hinkle Fieldhouse to take on Butler this Wednesday, Feb. 12. The game will tip at 6:30 and be televised on CBSSN. Hopefully, it won’t rain that day.

Providence dropped an opportunity for a likely Quad 1 win and falls to 13-11 (6-5). The Friars, who have moved into the fringes of the bubble, will need to finish strong to make up for a lackluster non-conference slate. They’ll get a chance to pick up a possible Quad 1 win this Wednesday when they travel to St. John’s. The Red Storm currently sit at 72 in the NET just inside the 75 spot cut-off of a Quad 1 road game. That game will follow the Xavier-Butler game at 8:30 on CBSSN.