No. 16 Xavier beats No. 17 Providence 85-83 in OT thriller


CINCINNATI — Jack Nunge had 23 points and 14 rebounds as No. 16 Xavier held off Providence 85-83 in an overtime thriller Wednesday night.

Colby Jones and Souley Boum each scored 20 points for the Musketeers, who won a showdown for first place in the Big East without injured forward Zach Freemantle.

Xavier lost 84-67 in Creighton on Saturday.

“It wasn’t an easy task,” said coach Sean Miller. “Travelling back from Omaha and not playing well, then losing on Zach’s heels. I wouldn’t want to play Providence in any tournament. It’s hard to beat them.”

Noah Locke had 22 points and Ed Croswell added 21 for Providence (17-6, 9-3), who had beaten Xavier three times in a row.

A layup by Boum gave the Musketeers (18-5, 10-2) an 82-79 lead with 51 seconds remaining in overtime. But a Xavier turnover led to a layup by Devin Carter, who cut the lead to one with 24 seconds left.

Boum hit one of two free throws, and Jared Bynum’s 3-point attempt from the left corner hit the buzzer as the Musketeers held.

“I was just happy that the last shot went in and out,” said Nunge.

Bynum hit a 3 on the buzzer to beat Xavier at the Cintas Center last season and his Wednesday night shot appeared to go in as well.

“I had flashbacks to last year,” Jones said.

Xavier played his first game without Freemantle, the team’s leading rebounder and second-best scorer. He is expected to miss four weeks with an injury to his left foot, the same foot that required surgery in 2021.

“We told him we were going to fight for him,” Jones said. “It was big for us. He does a lot on the pitch. We only played for him.”

Jerome Hunter, who excelled off the bench for the Musketeers, made his first start this season and scored nine points with eight rebounds. Xavier had used the same starting lineup in each of his previous 11 Big East games.

It was just one game, but Miller was heartened by how his team reacted without one of his top players

“The main reason we’re worried about him is because he’s worked so hard,” Miller said. “It’s very difficult that he goes down now when college basketball is in the spotlight. Losing Zach can bring out the best in other things, and that’s what we’re really looking for right now.”

Things started well for the Musketeers. who went on a 12-1 run to build a 25-11 lead.

With Boum on the bench with two fouls, the Musketeers were without a field goal in the final 4:18 of the first half and the Friars were up 39-35 at halftime.

“We just did quick shots, lots of 3s,” Jones said. “We weathered the storm brilliantly and stuck to our game plan.”

Providence beat Xavier 8-2 early in the second half to take a 17-41 lead at 43-41.

There was a frantic end to regulation when Adam Kunkel’s 3-pointer gave Xavier a 76-73 lead with 55 seconds left. But then Bynum benched a three and Boum missed two long shots to send the game into overtime.

“We got into a hostile environment and I took pride in my tenacity,” said Providence coach Ed Cooley. “Souley (Boum) showed why he’s an All Big East guard. If you face this atmosphere and this kind of coaching, you will not go undefeated.”

The Musketeers, who average 13 turnovers per game, have committed just five — their fewest since they had four in an 81-75 win over Georgetown on Jan. 9, 2019.

“The key stat for us was five turnovers in 45 minutes,” Miller said. “That’s why we won the game.”

Providence: The brothers, who won their first Big East regular-season title last year, entered the night level on points at the top of the conference standings with Xavier and No. 14 Marquette, who later hosted Villanova. Providence finished fifth in the preseason. “There are never moral victories in sports,” Cooley said. “But I’m happy where we are.”

Xavier: Hunter, averaging 14 minutes, left the game with three minutes left in the OT with an apparent right leg cramp. Hunter played 36 minutes without Freemantle. “I appreciate Jerome’s tenacity and the energy he put into defense,” Miller said. “Just look at how much energy he expended guarding Bryce Hopkins.”

Providence: host last-placed Georgetown on Wednesday.

Xavier: Will host St. John’s on Saturday.

More AP college basketball: and and AP_Top25

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