Myles Davis and JP Macura. When it came down to it, Xavier's almost eerily calm junior and their 94 feet of annoying sophomore carried the day. When Providence ratcheted up the pressure late, it was Myles that brought the ball up, caught every inbound pass, and iced the game from the line. When it came down to Xavier needing a big bucket to hold off the hard charging Friars, it was JP calmly stroking a three while his coach called for a timeout. After the game Coach said "JP... that's a little of what he has in him" with a smile on his face that indicated that a make and a win had helped Macura's case.
The first half started with a battle of runs. Xavier blew out to a seven point that was capped with a Trevon Bluiett three. Providence was unwilling to go quiet into that good night though, and came right back with a 13-0 run of their own. Midway through that run came three consecutive dunks that had the Dunkin Donuts Center crowd going absolutely crazy. There are Xavier teams in the recent past that would have been cowed by that, but this is not one of them. Edmond Sumner showed some of that unwillingness to lie down by slashing through the whole defense and throwing down a monster...miss. It wasn't a perfect response, but it was a statement of intent.
After that Friars run, Xavier went into lockdown mode. Providence went nearly six minutes without a made field goal as Xavier stormed back to take the lead. They tied it quickly with back to back buckets, but then only made one more the rest of the half as a 6-8 start swooned into a 4-24 fade. A zipping up doesn't do a great deal of good without some offense to go with it, though, and that fell to James Farr.
Coach Mack said against Seton Hall he could see James just decide that he was going to grab every rebound. In this half, he seemed to almost apply the same approach to offense. It was a massive follow dunk, two short corner jumpers, and a three pointer from the corner that James used to stamp his authority on this one. His line of 11/6/0 at the half overshadowed the five assists Myles Davis had chipped in or the 6/5/0 that an obviously more engaged Jalen Reynolds had put up. Really only an 0-5 from the floor from Edmond Sumner marred what was a great response to early gut check from Providence.
The second half saw Xavier start to salt away the game. Jalen Reynolds finally showed up when he was needed and he was a warrior inside. Early in the second half he dropped a shoulder into Ben Bentil that staggered the Providence big man. Jalen flashed the guns to the student section on the way back down, and his 15/11/o were vital in a game that James Farr eventually fouled out of. Trevon Bluiett threw in 15 of his own including a huge stickback of a Sumner miss (aided by a Macura takedown of Bentil) and a driving layup that pushed the lead to ten with two minutes to play.
At the end though, this game came down to Myles Davis, JP, and that beautiful zond. 13/5/7 on 5-10 from the floor was Myles final line, but that doesn't tell the story. Myles preternatural calm kept the roaring crowd and a couple of frantic Providence comebacks from ever fully taking hold. Of Xavier's 20 turnovers, Myles had only three. Defensively the numbers were staggering. Xavier played the 1-3-1 that Coach Mack had designed specifically for Providence and the Friars obliged them by shooting like total garbage. .314/.206/.810 won't win any game unless you are playing a junior high team. Providence was 7-34 from behind the arc. There's not even any analysis to offer on that. The numbers speak for themselves.
These are the kind of games Xavier came to the Big East for. Yes, as a follower pointed out, the A10 regular season never really threatened to send you into cardiac arrest, but it also never did much for the team. Tonight, Xavier went on the road and beat the consensus #10 team in the nation. It was convincing at times, it was frightening at times, but at the end of the game, Xavier's, defense, mental fortitude and the joie de vivre of JP Macura took the team to 18-2. Roadkill.