By: Kyle Isaacs~Staff Writer~
Nearly one week removed from their first Big East road win, the Xavier men’s basketball team could not duplicate the result in Rhode Island, falling to Providence College 81-72.
The loss drops the Musketeers to 15-5 on the season with a 5-2 record in conference play. Despite the defeat, Xavier still remains third place in the Big East standings, tied with Providence.
After 20 minutes of basketball at Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, neither team had established a commanding lead.
The Musketeers were never able to distance themselves from the Friars at any point during the game, claiming a 3-point lead early in the first half as their largest of the afternoon. Despite 13 first half points from junior guard Justin Martin, the Musketeers entered the locker room down four points at halftime.
Xavier pulled within one point early in the second half, but the Friars responded with a 15-4 run that afforded them a double-digit cushion over the boys in blue.
After that five minute spurt from Providence, the Musketeers attempted to chip away at the lead but were never able to fully get over the hump. Sophomore guard Semaj Christon poured in 16 points in the second half to complement junior center Matt Stainbrook’s near double-double of 11 points and nine rebounds.
With 1:48 left to play, Stainbrook pulled the Musketeers to within four points, but this field goal was the last made basket for Xavier on the day. The Friars paraded to the free throw line and sank five free throws in the final two minutes to secure the nine point victory.
Head coach Chris Mack was not pleased with the defensive showing from Xavier, which has now surrendered an average of 79.2 points per game in the last five Big East games.
“Our defense has left us over the last 2-3 weeks,” Mack said. “We’re not going to compete for a Big East Championship giving up 80-85 [points] every game.”
In his post-game press conference, Mack was a bit more blunt about the subject, saying that the team defense was “terrible” and “pathetic.” Meanwhile, Christon’s efforts landed him on the Big East Honor Roll for the third time this month.
The Musketeers return home to square off against Seton Hall University this Saturday. The game tips off at Cintas Center at noon, with the action being televised on CBS Sports Network.