Providence Continues to Stay Lucky and Beats #21 Xavier 65-62

#17 Providence continues to defy the metrics and Vegas by defeating the Xavier Musketeers on the road 65-62. Providence hit a late three pointer by Jared Bynum to secure the victory, making the Friars 17-2 overall and 7-1 in the Big East.

We break down how the Friars were able to secure a victory against the Musketeers.

Revisiting Keys to the Game

Here is our game preview (https://theprovidencecrier.com/2022/01/24/battle-of-the-ranked-big-east-squads-friars-take-on-21-xavier/#more-4406)

  1. Will AJ Reeves Play? Reeves was out again with injury. While the Friars are 4-1 without him playing, they are going to need another perimeter threat alongside Horchler. Providence is getting by on stellar defense, but the 3 point shooting ability of Reeves is sorely missed. Here’s to hoping the starting 2-guard is back for Marquette.
  2. Limit Perimeter Looks for Kunkel and Johnson – The Friar perimeter defense was stellar. Kunkel and Johnson combined to go 0-10 from the floor and 0-8 from 3. The Friars were able to consistently close out and not give these sharpshooters many wide open looks.
  3. Get Nunge Defending in Space – If anything, Xavier did this to us with Nate Watson. The Friars were able to secure a victory even with Watson not scoring at all and being in foul trouble all game. Nunge is a unique threat, as he can hit the outside shot while having deceptive quickness to recover. There were a few times where Cooley got what he wanted with Nunge guarding Bynum or Breed on the perimeter, and Nunge was still able to recover and alter or block a shot when the Friars drove. I knew Nunge was good, but he opened my eyes to his skill level and ability. He has to be one of the top big men in the Big East.
  4. Withstand the inevitable Xavier Cintas run – This Friar team is just so drastically different than last year. There were so many times where the Friars had an early lead, but that lead crumbled as soon as the opposing team made a run. The Friars time and time again punched back any time the Musketeers made a push to secure the lead. It is a testament to the poise and maturity of this squad.
  5. Entire Providence team must stay engaged defensively – It is no surprise to anybody that Minaya was a lockdown defender in this one. He is arguably the best perimeter defender in the Big East and should absolutely secure the DPOY award. The entire team held Xavier approximately 12 points below their season average.

Key Takeaways around the Xavier Win

  1. Bynum’s development as a guard – Bynum continues to thrive in this microwave role off the bench. Not only did he hit the game winner, he compiled 16 points and 4 assists. He is really coming into his own, in a similar capacity to Pipkins in 2019-2020. Bynum is now becoming much more assertive on the offensive end, which is a wonderful development for the Friars. Cooley’s team work best when there is an efficient lead guard in the mix.
  2. Croswell is no longer the cherry on top, but is vital to the success to this team – In the early stages of this season, it seemed like anything Ed Croswell gave us was a pleasant surprise. That is no longer the case. Croswell is absolutely vital to the success of this team. He has carried this team through many offensive ruts and seems to set the tone on the court. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Watson and Croswell split playing time 50/50. Croswell clearly has earned every single minute he plays.
  3. Well balanced scoring – If somebody said Nate Watson scored zero points, I’d likely say Providence lost by 15+. It is such an asset to have Watson have an “off” night, and Providence can still secure wins. There are going to be games where Watson carries the Friar team, but it is so refreshing to know that we don’t need to exclusively rely on Watson to win.

Providence looks to finish this week at 2-0, as they take on the #22 Marquette Golden Eagles in a revenge game at home. Providence hasn’t lost since they took on Marquette in Wisconsin. If Providence is able to get a win against them, I’d be shocked if Providence doesn’t begin to receive Top 10 votes.

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