So...how’s that for a Big East start? How are the 57% of you who weren’t happy with this team feeling now? Of course, everyone is feeling great at this moment. Even faced with the coaching brilliance of Ed Cooley, Xavier jumped on Providence early and never looked back. It was 10-7 early in the first half, and then it was 20-7. The Friars splashed a bit, but then the undertow took them and they were never seen again. The big difference between this game and the Eastern Washington win eight days ago is that this one counts in conference, it certainly wasn’t in level of competition provided.
Defense rules the day:
The one place it looked like Providence could hurt the Musketeers was from behind the three point arc. The Friars only got 14 off on the day and only made five of them. Xavier destroyed Providence defensively when it mattered, the Friars shot 38% from the floor, of those 30 misses, men in black grabbed only three of them, Rodney Bullock, Providence’s big gun, shot 1-11, grabbed no offensive rebounds, and was basically a non-entity. It was just suffocating. The official points per possession numbers aren’t out yet, but my rudimentary calculations land at .84. That’s like a game long zipping up.
But the offense wasn’t bad either:
Xavier shot 60% from the floor, 40% from behind the arc, and also took some free throws. 22 of the Musketeers 32 makes were assisted, the team only turned the ball over 14 times, had 13 second chance points, ripped off a 16-2 run, dropped 1.24 points per possessions, and grabbed eight of their own 21 misses. The only starter not in double figures was Malcolm Bernard, and he chipped in four assists. Trevon Bluiett went for 22/9/4 and only needed 14 shots to do it. We may see a more comprehensive offensive display in conference, but this one was impressive.
Coach Mack was a step ahead of Ed Cooley:
Providence could be beaten inside, that was evident before the game. This was apparently lost on Ed Cooley, or else he simply can’t do anything about it, and Xavier hammered the ball inside for 42 points. The other place where the Friars could hurt X was in transition off turnovers, and they didn’t get as many points there as the Musketeers. The Friars only came up with eight steals as the Musketeers cut ribbons through them. Once Providence realized that Rodney Bullock wasn’t clicking they...didn’t do anything. Coach Mack takes some grief at times for his in game adjustments, but he put his team in position to exploit Providence’s weaknesses, and exploit they did.
Bonus: Man, that was fun:
I’m glad that Big East basketball is back. Boatracing EWU is one thing, destroying a conference opponent whose fans love to get on social media and talk is an entirely different beast. Providence came here looking to get back going after a loss to Boston College and riding some talk of being a legit tournament threat. They leave having been served notice of where they, once again, belong in the Big East.