#17 Providence Friars 65 (17-2)
#21 Xavier Musketeers 62 (14-5)
No A.J. Reeves for the 5th straight game. No points from leading scorer Nate Watson who was the focal point of the Xavier defense and hindered by constant foul trouble. No respect from the media who can’t fathom how Providence can actually be really good without checking all of the analytical boxes. No credit for their wins that have been constantly classified as ‘lucky.’ NO PROBLEM.
Providence got arguably its biggest win of the season, beating #21 Xavier on the road at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati. The Friars were a paltry 1-9 against the Musketeers on the road before this win but showed why this year’s teams is built different than the PC teams in recent years. Providence hasn’t had to deal with the slow starts that have plagued them in the past and have actually leaned on their foul shooting down the stretch, something that Friartown would tell you just didn’t used to be the case.
Al Durham led the Friars with 22 points and was integral down the stretch of the game, continuing to provide PC with clutch free throw shooting and making the unselfish play to set up Jared Bynum (16 points) for the game-winning 3-point basket with just 1.5 seconds left on the clock.
- Jared Bynum turned around and immediately redeemed himself after committing a late turnover, transforming into the hero of the game with a game-winning three to give the Friars the win.
- Bynum scored 16 points on 6/12 shooting and handed out a team-high 4 assists.
- Even though Bynum has come off the bench each game since returning from injury, he is continuing to play starters minutes in relief. Not only that, but he is playing the best basketball of his Friars career. Just take a look at how much he’s improved since coming back from his ankle injury.
- The 7 games before the injury: 12/37 FGs (32.4%), 6/18 3FGs (33.3%), 14/18 FT (77.7%), 6.3 ppg, 3.7 apg, 2.6 rpg, 20 mpg
- The 8 games after the injury: 36/80 FGs (45.0%), 9/21 3 FGs (42.9%), 17/22 (77.3%), 12.1 ppg, 4.5 apg, 2.3 rpg, 28.1 mpg
- There is a special dynamic when both Bynum and Al Durham are on the court together, providing opportunities for each to both handle the ball and work off the ball.
- Speaking of Al Durham, that dude was shot out of a rocket to start the game, scoring 12 of the first 15 points for the Friars. Those initial 12 points in under 6 minutes into the first half matched his total scoring output in the last game against Butler over 37 minutes.
- Durham’s 22 points led all scorers and are the 2nd most points he’s scored in a game this season. With Big Nate putting up an unexpected goose egg, Al actually slid into being the leading scorer on the team at 13.8 ppg.
- Over his last 6 games, Al has started to connect consistently from distance, hitting 8/23 (34.8%) from beyond the arc and making multiple threes in 3 of those games. Durham was just 10/48 (20.8%) through the first 13 games of the season and 0/11 over the previous 4 games (UVM, CCSU, UConn, & Seton Hall) before kicking into gear over these last 6. When watching his proficiency at the free throw line, you can tell that he has the attributes to be a threat from deep. I mean, Al was able to shoot over 38% from three-point land in each of his two previous seasons at Indiana.
- Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, Al Durham got to the line AND did work from there.
- Durham went 10/10 from the line on freebies and hit two gigantic ones down the stretch when Xavier took the lead for the first time since starting the game 2-0.
- Al currently ranks 7th in the Nation in free throw attempts per game (7.11) and 4th in the Nation on free throw attempts made per game (5.89). Durham is connecting on a career-high 83% on a career-high in attempts.
- I’m running out of ways to describe how much I love the way Justin Minaya plays. I’ve said in the past how certain guys felt like they were supposed to play at PC (i.e. Emmitt Holt) but it is as if Minaya was created in a lab to fit Ed Cooley and Friartown’s wants and specifications.
- Minaya was phenomenal on the defensive end, matching his career-high with 4 blocks while putting the clamps on whoever was in front of him. He did so playing the entire 40 minutes and without committing a single foul. Minaya has played 40 minutes in 3 of the last 4 games, playing 37 in the lone game where he got a quick rest.
- The most all-around loved Big East guy John Fanta posted this fun little defensive comparison of conference players before the Xavier game tipped.
- Here is a full minute of defensive highlights against Xavier to give you an idea of what opposing teams are sweating over having to face Minaya on D.
- Minaya has made a believer out of me with his improvement in three-point shooting. Some of that is due to his shot selection when taking a three-pointer which is typically from thee corners. Minaya has made at least 1 three in each of the last 6 games, hitting at a 52.6% clip (10/19) over that span. He is up to 34.8% on the season after only connecting on 23.3%, 26.4%, and 13.3% (small game sample size) in each of the previous three years. Over his first 13 games of the season, Minaya only connected on 6 of 22 attempts (27.3%), sometimes taking contested shots early in the shot clock.
- Noah Horchler, or Horkle if you listened to the clueless commentators on CBS Sports Network, took down 11 rebounds over 37 minutes after being a game-time decision following spraining his ankle in the last minutes against Butler. Ed Cooley and the Friars needed him to show up and show up he did. All heart from Noah.
- Once again, Horchler came up with a huge 3 down the stretch. He seems to do this just about every close game the Friars find themselves in.
- Noah has snatched double-digit rebounds in 8 of the 19 games this season and leads the Friars with 8.4 rpg. Horchler is just fractions behind Adama Sonogo for the Big East lead in rebounds with 8.421 vs. 8.429.
- Ed Croswell continues to be a bench beast for PC.
- Over the last five games, Croswell is an insane 24/29 (82.8%) from the field, averaging 10.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg, & 1.4 bpg. He is doing all that in just 17.2 mpg. If you look up efficiency in the dictionary, Big Ed will be staring you right in the face.
- Alyn Breed has been struggling mightily shooting the ball this season but was able to get a couple of easy buckets in this one that will hopefully give him a bit of a spark to carry with him against Marquette. Although his production on offense has been limited, he continues to play really well on the defensive end. One thing you’ll never see from Alyn is him hanging his head or getting down. He is a great teammate who tries to contribute to the team in any and every way he can.
- Breed has been taking these running floaters on his drives to the hole that look pretty but somehow have been allergic to going in for some reason. When he hits one, I am going to go NUTS and post it everywhere possible. You also know there’s going to be a game soon where either Bynum or Durham is going to need to get picked up and I can’t wait to see Breed step up to the table.
- I could watch Ed Cooley’s interviews all day.
- Xavier is definitely a tournament team with a lot of different options in terms of scorers. The addition of Iowa transfer Jack Nunge gives the Musketeers an additional dimension with a 7-footer who can beat you from anywhere on the floor. Nunge finished with 15 points on 6/9 shooting (2/3 from three), to go along with 9 rebounds and 3 blocks.
- Paul Scruggs, who must have tenure at Xavier at this point, continues to be a thorn in the side of my Friar fandom and made some really big plays at the end of the game.
Next Up, the Friars get the hottest team in they country, Marquette, at The Dunk on Saturday at 4:30 PM with a chance to avenge the thrashing they received in Milwaukee. The game may get moved to Sunday with the forecast expecting a snow storm so we’ll see what happens and what the crowd may be like with the inclement weather.