By:Amir Chambers:|4.0 Sports Media
Madison Square Garden- They say anything can happen in March and fairytales do come true. Providence is proving that sentiment to be true. #5 Providence knocked off # 1 seed Xavier 75-72 in the first game of the semi-final game Fridya night in front of a sell-out crowd at “The World Famous Arena.”
Providence becomes the second team in the Big East Tournament history to win back-to-back overtime games. The first was Syracuse, which also won the quarterfinal and semi-final contests in overtime, back in 2009.
Providence will matchup against No.2 Villanova (1-8 all-time vs Villanova) in the Big East Tournament in tomorrow’s championship game at 6:30 p.m. The Friars knows they have hands full with Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges.
Providence shot a dismal 33.3% (10-30) from the field and 27.3% beyond the arc. Rodney Bullock was the only bright spot for the Friars in the first half. With the poor shooting performance in the half the Friars found themselves in a 43-29 deficit at the break.
“What a game, what an atmosphere, what a league. Didn’t come out playing the way we wanted to play. I was proud of our young kids in the second half. We made a bold move we haven’t done before because we had to change the rhythm of the game. We know we’re playing argubaly the best team in the country that’s been playing really, really well, has great seniors, really well coached. And I’m really proud of the players who stepped up the challenged, especially in the second half.” Providence head coach Ed Cooley said.
In the second half the Friars regain their shooting touch and regained their composure. By overcoming a 14-point deficit, Providence’s rally is tied for third all-time in Big East Tournament history. Providence trailed by 17 at the 15:20 mark of the second half before rallying.
Rodney Bullock started to hit shots on the perimeter which opened the paint area for forward Alpha Diallo. XU didn’t have an answer for Diallo and Bullock in the second half. Diallo use his length and his athletic abilities to consistenly get to the rack.
Xavier finished the night shooting 17-of-18 (94.4%) from the charity stripe, the programs highest free throw percentage in the Big East Tournament since joining the league. XU drops to 1-1 in the Big East. Even with their hot shooting from the line Trevon Bluiett and company couldn’t stop the Friars dribble-drive penetration in the second half which was their demise.
“We didn’t have an extraordinary amount of turnovers. I mean, we only had 10 for the game. But there was a crucial stretch where we made a few in a row, and what is a 17- or -15-point lead becomes single digits. Now the game feels a little funny. Told them we missed some shots around the basket, some looks. Providence is a really good defensive team, though, so to say we missed open shots would be discredit to how well they are on the defensive end. But, again, just a couple of plays and we’d have different feelings.” Xavier head coach Chris Mack said.
Rodney Bullock tied Alpa Diallo for the team with 17 points and seven rebounds, and is averaging 11.8 points and 7.2 rebounds in five career Big East Tournament games.
“Well, this one of my goals in the beginning of the season, when we started our season. Winning this tournament was one of our goals. And it sucks we’re not playing tomorrow, but I’m still glad we’ve got a lot of basketball to play.” Kerem Kanter said after being asked how he process the lost.
Kanter finished the game with 18 points with teammate Paul Scruggs chipping in 15 points and 2 boards.