The last two games between Providence and Xavier at the Cintas Center came down to the final shot. This one turned out the same way except that same shot at the buzzer didn’t fall. It didn’t seem like it was a possibility when the Friars trailed 33-19 twelve minutes into the first half. However, the Friars showed tremendous resilience and fight to get back into what was an absolute war of game.
The game saw 17+ lead changes in the second half alone as the Friars and Musketeers exchanged punch after punch. Adam Kunkle hit a go ahead three pointer late in the second half only for Jared Bynum to connect on the equalizer from distance (the bank is open). The Friars would then get a chance to win in the extra frame off a Souley Boum missed free throw only to see Bynum’s look go in and out at the buzzer.
For the Friars, it’s their first loss in overtime since 2019 and their first loss in a tight game in seemingly forever? Let’s dig into how it went down.
Locke and Croswell Shoulder Scoring Load- For the second straight game Ed Croswell kept the Friars in a game with his relentlessness scoring in the paint. Croswell really seemed to mentally check into that game after that foul by Kunkel. He went for 21 and 9.
This time he had Noah Locke join him as he hit 6 triples on the evening and finished with 22 points. On a night where Bynum, Carter and Hopkins weren’t overly efficient shooting the ball, Locke and Croswell stepped up. The above trio had plenty of moments in this comeback bid but they wouldn’t have been in a position to keep up with the Musketeer’s potent offense without Ed and Noah.
When Providence can lean on Croswell and Locke to also score, it’s a great sign for the future of this team. Forget about the outcome of this game, as somebody always has to win and lose. The bigger development is continuing to find other pieces on the roster to score. Locke going off on the road is a good way to get over any weird home/road split mental hurdle he may have had and have him be a more consistent weapon.
Not For the Weak- This game was surprisingly very physical both ways. The officials for the most part let the boys play and both teams got away with plenty of pushing and shoving.
I must ask though what does the Crier need to do to get Bryce Hopkins a foul call?! That’s besides the point though. The potential Big East player of the year doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt on the offensive end, but was whistled for touch fouls on the defensive end. It’s odd to see the lack of respect given to him, but we digress.
This game reminded me of a classic Big East games with more of a modern feel. It was an entertaining watch for sure, and the overall product is better when the refs aren’t blowing their whistle every 10 seconds.
Without Freemantle, Xavier Rides Boum, Nunge & Jones- It was Jerome Hunter who got the start for Zach Freemantle, and he gave Xavier a boost on the defensive end and the offensive glass. To make up for Freemantle’s scoring Xavier saw Jack Nunge, Souley Boum and Colby Jones score 20+ points. Nunge dominated for a good portion of the game but seemed to tire late. It was frustrating continuing to let him get open looks for three, as it is very apparent that he can hit those.
I was most impressed with Jones who was very efficient and played great defense all night. As we said pregame and on the pod, they have a lot of weapons who can beat you, and they are incredibly old. It’s Providence of last year.
Clean Game by Xavier – There was a brief period in the game where Xavier had back to back turnovers, and it seemed the ball pressure of Providence was finally causing them to cave. In the end, they steadied the ship and finished with only 5 turnovers to 22 total assists. That’s masterful work by the X-Men.
While it’s always tough to lose a 2-point game in overtime, you can’t help but feel pride for the effort. Several teams in this league would’ve folded down 14 in a raucous Cintas Center, but these Friars aren’t one of those teams. Cooley always talks about it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. That showed in this game, and it’s something to think about going forward.
This was Jared Bynum’s third game back after missing three weeks due to injury. Noah Locke is starting to catch fire shooting the ball. The Friars have yet to play their best ball and still are in an excellent position. The Friars finish the season with 5 of their last 8 games at home and are still in the hunt to repeat as Big East Champions. Friars get a week off before they host Georgetown next Wednesday.