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Xavier knocks off Providence to become Big East champs

The Friars were game, but Xavier never looked like losing this one at home.

NCAA Basketball: Providence at Xavier Cincinnati Enquirer-USA TODAY NETWORK

Trevon Bluiett dunked last night. That may not tell the story of the game or the season, but once again with something on the line, Tre came up with something special. There’s hopefully a lot of basketball to play yet this season, but Trevon Bluiett capped Senior Night with a defense splitting drive and dunk.

The game started like Xavier had something to prove and something they were nervous about. It was a 9-2 run to start the game for the Musketeers, but they also opened 1-9 from behind the arc. The one was, of course, Trevon, who was on his way to 23. X finished 5-14 from behind the arc, but that wasn’t the story of the game thanks to two senior big men and the next generation.

Kerem Kanter went 5-7 inside the arc and obliterated Nate Watson on the post. Watson is almost certainly seeking counseling today after being spun around completely at least twice, but he was hardly the only Providence big to get torched. The Musketeers shot 54% inside the arc, grabbed 53% of their misses, and got fouled enough to earn 26 trips to the line, 23 of which they converted. Tre went 8-8 from the line, fellow senior Sean O’Mara was 6-7, and Quentin Goodin was 3-3 to compliment his 6-7 from inside the arc. On a night when the threes were infrequent, Xavier was dominant in the paint.

To win in March the Musketeers will likely have to get a stop at some point. Once again last night, that was an issue. Xavier allowed Providence to shoot 70% inside the arc. Blessedly, the Friars went 3-18 from behind the arc, which “limited” them to only 1.10 points per possession. Both Naji Marshall and Paul Scruggs looked good as on ball defenders, but Scruggs struggled with foul trouble. Kaiser Gates, rim rattling driving scorer, was also good on ball. Thus ends the list of the Musketeers that played defense yesterday.

But the game wasn’t he entire story last night in the Cintas. For the first time in the history of the city of Cincinnati, one of he teams from the Queen City is taking home a major conference title. With Xavier emerging as a national power, only a Big East championship was missing from their regular season resume. As of last night, it isn’t anymore. A win at DePaul on Saturday means the Musketeers are the sole champions, but no matter what happens, another banner is headed to the rafters. March and April are yet to come, but on senior night Xavier made certain they met their regular season goals for 2018.

NCAA Basketball: Providence at Xavier Cincinnati Enquirer-USA TODAY NETWORK