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Xavier 85-74 Providence: Recap- A tale of two Xaviers

Xavier pulled a Jekyll and Hyde act tonight before downing Providence for win #23.

"You smell like a complete player"
"You smell like a complete player"
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

There have been two Xavier teams that have shown up at various times this season. Good Xavier moves the ball on offense, forces tough shots and protects the glass on defense, and generally scores from all over the floor due to their frightening balance of interior force and perimeter speed and shooting. Good Xavier rolls off massive runs and ruthlessly buries opponents, the best example being the absolute humiliation of Dayton in Orlando.

On the opposite side of the coin, Bad Xavier has occasionally reared its ugly head this season. Bad Xavier is characterized by failure to close out shooters, a lack of ability to kill posessions with rebounds, and an overall stagnation on offense, leading to frequent contested jumpshots and piles of misses. Tonight, both sides of Xavier were clearly displayed but in the end, unlike Robert Louis Stevenson's timeless tale of split identity, Dr. Jekyll won out for X tonight, netting them their 23rd win of the season.

1st Half- Good Xavier Runs Riot

Basically the entire first half was an exhibition of what this team can be at their offensive best. Xavier rampaged out of the gate, gaining a 26-12 lead in the first 9 minutes of play behind a barrage of three pointers from Remy Abell, Edmond Sumner, and Trevon Bluiett. What followed was a 3 and half minute scoring drought, but Xavier would turn it back on for the final 8 minutes of the frame. Down the stretch Xavier would tack on to the lead with 9-12 free throw shooting and Bluiett and Davis staying hot from three. Curiously missing from the equation was the scoring efficiency of Jalmes Farrnolds, who was held to just 6 points on 3-8 shooting. They would help Xavier control the boards and hold Providence to 4-11 shooting from 2 point range. They were offset by the usually slow starting Trevon Bluiett, who scored a staggering 17 points on on 8 field goal attempts.

The other developing story line was Jamie Luckie, Gary Prager, and Matt Potter going out of their way to lower the bar which all other Big East refereeing crews will be judged by this season. An infuriating whirlwind of showmanship, missed infractions (especially by Providence's Kris Dunn), inexplicable touch fouls, and an unearned technical or two made this crew standout over the pitiful miasma of pathetic officiating crews the Big East has produced this season. There will of course be no recourse, other than two fanbases coming away with the distinct impression that these three are an embarassment to their already notably underwhelming profession. Oh my gosh, I am turning into Brad.

2nd Half (20:00-15:30)- Bad Xavier Peeks Out

11 seconds into the half Remy Abell, who had racked up 7 points in 8 minutes to that point, picked up his 4th foul of the game. Providence used their opportunity to rush out of the break on a 10-2 run, which cut the lead back to 7 points. Xavier surrendered three layups during this span, only shot one non-jumper themselves, and commited three fouls and a turnover. Xavier's dependence on jump shooting and failure to sind looks they could knock down during Providence's run brought the Friars right back into a game it looked for all the world like Xavier was about to salt away.

2nd Half (15:30-9:30)- Good Xavier Strikes Back

Getting back to their aggressive identity on the offensive glass,  the Musketeers would rip down 6 offensive boards in as many minutes while re-establishing themselves as the dominant force in this game. Reynolds and Farr both got in on the act as well as Sean O'Mara, but the real impact was the emphasis on post scoring, where X got 8 points in their 15-1 run. The capper came on one of the defining plays of the night when oft-ignored Makinde London ran down a second offensive rebound for Xavier on the possession before draining a deep three to push the lead to 19 and seemingly put Xavier too far up to catch. With an opponent on the ropes at home and in possession of all the momentum, Xavier needed only do the bare minimum to take home this win.

2nd Half (9:30-2:00)- Bad Xavier Comes Super Close To Blowing It

Think of everything Xavier could possibly do to make you say "ugh" right out loud in your living room. They did that tonight, most likely during this stretch where they seemed intent on handing Providence as many lifelines as they would need to win the game. Xavier would go more than 6 minutes without making a field goal, which was not helped by that fact they would also 4-10 from the line as well. Three Providence three pointers and 5-6 shooting from the line fueled a 18-5 run which cut the Xavier lead to just 6 points with 2 minutes left to play. Xavier had Providence down 18 in the first half and had let them back into it, and now had them down 19 with 9 minutes to go and somehow still found themselves in a battle as the closing stages neared.

2nd Half (2:00-End)- The Return of Good Xavier

Following Kris Dunn's three to cut the lead to 6, Trevon Bluiett began a fun new trend for Xavier in the 2nd half: executing from the line. His pair of makes was soon followed by a split by him and another two makes from Jalen Reynolds who, despite an unflattering shooting line on the night showed encouraging focus and stayed engaged when Xavier needed him to be. With 36 second left, Myles Davis knocked down another pair of free throws, giving him his first career triple-double and earning him a hug from Coach Mack. Kris Dunn would fire three straight threes off the backboard, one of which went in, and Providence's final glimmer of hope evaporated when Larry Austin Jr came up with a steal and slam to put the finishing touches on another harrowing night for X fans. It was again more complicated than it needed to be, but at a certain point we might have to accept that this is how this team wins games.