"I just hope they play this half like they realize their season is on the line."
I had just returned from watching my nephew play/practice basketball with his team. I don't like leaving a game paused at halftime, but it was part of the dude's fifth birthday celebration, and I figured I could take the hit for him.
When I had left, Xavier was down 40-34 and playing like Bad Xavier. The usual issues had allowed Providence to shoot 13-22/4-7/10-15 in the opening half, and only Xavier's 12 points off of 8 Friars turnovers had kept them in the game. Dee already had five assists and Trevon already had ten points, but X was going to have to find another gear to get back into the game and probably the season.
Providence opened the half with an offensive board and two FT to extend the lead to eight; not an auspicious development. Trevon Bluiett answered with a pair from the line. After a Junior Lomomba free throw made the lead seven again, Myles hit a three from Trevon. Then Myles hit a three from Dee. Then Trevon hit a three from Dee. Then Myles drilled another one, this time from Stainbrook.
In four possessions, Xavier erased a month's worth of struggles from behind the arc and flipped the scoreboard from down 8 to up 4 in just 3:42. A Jalen dunk and a couple of Dee free throws later and it was Xavier riding an eight-point advantage less than five minutes after being down by the same amount.
But Providence had come into the day just half a game out of the lead in the Big East, and a team like that doesn't go quietly. They hit back, first through LaDontae Henton, then Kris Dunn. Those two combined for 13 of Providence's next 18 points as the visitors battled back to tie the game at 62 with 7:48 remaining.
But the Musketeers had the strength to punch back after Providence had landed their best blow. Over the next 4:39, Xavier answered back with a 12-2 run that ended the game as a contest and got X back to .500 in the Big East.
In the biggest half of the season, it was the toughest players on the Xavier roster making the difference. Myles Daviscalled out the team's preparation and effort after Wednesday's loss; he had 11 in the second half on 3-6/3-5/2-2 shooting. Jalen Reynolds always looks like he's just itching for a reason to dunk on the entire arena; he had 11 in the second half on 5-6/0-0/1-1 shooting.
Finally, senior point guard Dee Davis has been the guy putting his body through the wringer for this team for three and a half years. He was brilliant in the second half, missing both his field goal attempts but dishing out 10 assists (he had 15 on the day) to only 2 turnovers, pulling down 2 rebounds, and never coming off the floor. His rip of Kris Dunn on a run-out with Xavier up 5 and just over a minute left kept Providence from cutting it to a one-possession game and setting up a tense finish.
There was time on the clock for one last cherry on top. Dee threw it hard off the glass; Jalen punctuated twenty vital minutes that kept the Xavier season afloat.