By: Adam Tortelli ~Staff Writer~
Less than a week removed from the tough 10-day stretch without a win, the Xavier men’s basketball team got back on track with a 59-53 win over Providence in Saturday’s matinee at Cintas Center.
With the victory, Xavier evened its season series with the Friars following an 81-72 Musketeer loss in Rhode Island which led to a three-game losing streak.
The first half featured grind-it-out, neck-and-neck and defense-savvy basketball as neither team could pull away with the biggest of a maximum of five points.
Muskie defense held Providence scoreless for nearly seven minutes, leading to an 8-0 in order to gain a slight 10-8 advantage.
Providence’s Josh Fortune carried the Friars into halftime with a 32-31 lead. After conceding a quick two points, Chris Mack’s squad began the second half with a 9-0 run to give them a 40-34 lead.
Providence’s defense locked down and held Xavier without a basket for seven minutes, trimming the lead down to one point with just over a minute remaining.
Sophomore guard Semaj Christon put the game on ice with a clutch steal, assisting senior forward Isaiah Philmore’s clear path dunk with 47 seconds left in the game.
The Muskies refused to walk away with another loss, and came out as the “hungrier Howies,” as junior center Matt Stainbrook said in a postgame interview.
Xavier’s top three scorers of Christon, Stainbrook and junior forward Justin Martin all came to play early Saturday evening as they combined for 38 of the team’s 59 points.
Stainbrook led the way in all statistical categories with 13 points, nine rebounds and five assists to pair with Martin contributing 13 points, three rebounds and two assists.
Christon’s stat line (12 points, two rebounds and three assists) does not show his impact on the defensive end, in which he limited Providence’s leading scorer Bryce Cotton to only nine points.
The win over Providence gave the Musketeers (16-7, 6-4 Big East) sole ownership of third place in the conference heading into Tuesday night’s matchup against Butler.
Xavier beat Big East rival Butler 64-50 last night at Hinkle Field House in Indinaoplis, Ind.