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Friars Feast on #5 Musketeers

Xavier may have given the Friars a run for their money in the paint, but at the end of the day it was the Friars who ate the heartiest on the stat line, beating the Musketeers 81-72.

Xavier not only ate Providence’s lunch in the paint, they had a buffet. The fifth-ranked Musketeers made a living off the Friars by playing close to the rim, grabbing offensive rebounds, and getting those second chance opportunities.

Just looking at the box score for Xavier tells a clear story: 17 offensive rebounds compared to Providence’s 24 defensive. The Friars were out rebounded for the game 44-28. At one point Xavier had 19 second chance points, while the Friars had goose egg for second chance opportunities. They outscored the Friars 36-18 in the paint with about 10 minutes left in the game.

Perhaps most challenging of all for the Providence defense was Kerem Kanter, the Musketeer’s senior forward. Prior to today’s game Kanter averaged 8.3 points per game and 5.1 rebounds per game, but Kanter kept the Musketeers from getting run out of the Dunk with an impressing 24 points and 12 rebounds off the bench.

It still wasn’t enough.

The Musketeers were hindered by the combined performance of stars Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura. Between the two of them, they shot a combined 33% from the field and only contributed a total of 21 points – less than Kanter’s contributions on the scoreboard off the bench. What’s more, Macura had a rough game with fouls, and fouled out of the game.

The Friars survived a 5th ranked Xavier team who, prior to today, had only lost once this season. Last year, Xavier made it to the Elite 8.

The Friars survived despite all this, and they did it through strong distribution and excellent scoring.

The Friars finished the game with 19 assists, with Kyron Cartwright leading the way with 9. They also had 11 steals and just 9 turnovers. Xavier, on the other hand, only had 12 assists and 15 turnovers. These were the opportunities that the Friars capitalized on strongest. Through the “extra pass” to find the open player, taking care of the ball (not chucking it up court on a rare defensive rebound to try and fast break, only to turn it over), the Friars were able to hold on against Xavier and escape with a win.

Maybe “hold on” and “escape” are too dismissive of what the Friars did. All season the Friars have struggled to find an identity, and the start of Big East play has morphed them – slowly – into who they are as a team. This game may have been an indication that the Friars are, indeed, who the fans thought they were.

Sharing is caring has never been truer, especially for the Friars. There are two stories from the box score: one where Xavier had an individual player dominate the scoreboard and where the team got boards and put up second chance efforts, and a story where Providence shared the ball and had five players in double digits (four of their starters, and Isaiah Jackson off the bench), and held on to win.

History favors the victors. The story of this game is Xavier’s Kanter may have been eating in the buffet, but the Friars shared the meal and walked away with the win.

Oh, and the Friars shot over 90% from the free throw line. So…I don’t even know what to say to that.