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Xavier 74-73 Providence: Three Takeaways from Sunday morning

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Xavier outlasted the Friars to get back above .500 in Big East play.

NCAA Basketball: Providence at Xavier Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

In a game where whoever lost was going to feel like they let one get away, Xavier blew the game, recovered, blew the game again, and rallied again to see Colby Jones’ three pointer with 0.1 seconds left decide another nip and tuck affair between Xavier and Providence. Here is what we learned:

The free throw shooting is becoming worrisome

After surviving an ugly showing from the line against St. John’s, Xavier stooped even further today by going 8-16 from the stripe. Beyond just the fact that the team is now shooting 68.6% from the line, there is also the issue that fewer that Xavier is 248th in the country in FTRate, which means that they don’t get to the line all that often anyway. In fact, you have to go back more than a month to find a game in which Xavier shot over 70% from the line on double digit attempts. Unless you play mind blowingly efficient offense otherwise, you need to be able to get some free points at the line in close games and Xavier failed to do so again today, nearly costing themselves the win the process. The ball moves very well for this offense, the turnovers are down from the past two seasons, and the jump shooting is much improved, but a lack of ability to get to the line and convert looks more and more like this offense’s Achilles heel.

Kunkel adds more than just shooting

Adam Kunkel came in billed as a knockdown shooter,but his 0-5 from deep today dropped him all the way to 20% on the season. However, few can deny the positive impact he had for Xavier in the second half with his intelligent movement, incisive passing, and instinctive reading of the game to spark Xavier’s first late run today. Kunkel went 4-4 from inside the arc, dished out 5 assists to 1 turnover, and grabbed a pair of steals on the defensive end to help Xavier back into the ball game. His shooting will come around, but today he showed just how much he can add for Xavier even when he is slumping from behind the arc.

This freshman class has a chance to be very special

Xavier’s three true freshman have all missed time this season that would undoubtedly have helped them further adjust to the college game, yet they all stepped in today for Xavier and provided big plays. CJ Wilcher provided a spark in the first half, nailing back to back threes which pushed Xavier’s lead to 7 and is now shooting 43% from deep. Dwon Odom was magnificent again, dishing out 3 assists without turning the ball over and grabbing a pair of steals. Colby Jones grabbed the headlines again after going for a 9/3/2 line and nailing the game winning three. His emotional celebration, surrounded by teammates with tears in his eyes after the passing of his grandpa just two days ago showed how much this game meant to him and how much this group means to each other. If these three guys and Dieonte Miles continue to grow and develop at this rate, they have a chance to write themselves this Xavier lore.