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Xavier hands Providence another home loss

By
Gethin Coolbaugh, The Sports Xchange

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Chris Mack always enjoys Dunkin' Donuts coffee, but playing in the Dunkin' Donuts Center is a different story.

Mack's Xavier team had never won in three trips to Providence's home court before Tuesday night, but the Musketeers were able to brew up a victory this time around.

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"It takes some toughness to walk into this building and come away with a win," Mack said after his seventh-ranked Musketeers held off the 10th-ranked Friars for a 75-68 win. "It's nice to be in the Dunkin' Donuts Center with a win. Hell, I love Dunkin' Donuts coffee."

Xavier (18-2, 6-2 Big East) was led by junior forward Jalen Reynolds and sophomore guard Trevon Bluiett, who each scored 15 points. Junior guard Myles Davis had 13 points and seven assists, while Reynolds had 11 rebounds.

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The Musketeers shot 55.6 percent in the second half and finished at 50.8 percent for the game, but they still found themselves on the brink of blowing a 17-point lead when the Friars pulled within three points late.

Providence junior guard Kris Dunn's layup with 1:20 to go made it 68-65, but Xavier sophomore guard J.P. Macura answered on the other end with a 3-pointer with 1:06 remaining.

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Xavier made four free throws in the final 41 seconds to seal the victory.

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"We knew (that run) was going to happen," Davis said. "It's their home court, it's going to happen in every Big East game, especially when you've got one of the best players in the country and one of the best players in the conference."

Friars sophomore forward Ben Bentil had a game-high 25 points and grabbed six rebounds, while Dunn added 16 points, eight boards, seven assists and seven steals.

Providence (17-4, 5-3) fell back to earth following a 82-76 overtime upset of No. 6 Villanova on Sunday.

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"We might have caught Providence at a tough time," Mack said. "Facts are facts, they played on Sunday, traveled back and one day to prepare."

The excuses were there after Winter Storm Jonas forced the league to move the Friars' game against the Wildcats from Saturday to Sunday, but Providence coach Ed Cooley had no desire to make them.

"I would like more preparation time, but mother nature controlled that, and you've got to play the game," Cooley said. "They had to travel here. We're not going to use that as an excuse. We just didn't play well, and we've got to do a better job."

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The Friars have already lost three conference games at home this season.

"I hurt for a loss anytime it's in this building," Cooley said. "I don't want to make it a big deal, but it is a big deal. So we've got to find us a way to get a home win because there were 12,000 people here that wanted to win, and I love those fans that are here."

The Musketeers stretched the lead to 59-42 with 7:22 remaining before a 14-3 surge brought the Friars within 62-56 with 5:05 to play.

Xavier scored the game's first seven points, but Providence kicked into gear with a 13-0 run. The teams were tied at 20 with 7:52 to go in the opening half.

Reynolds hit a jumper to cap a 14-3 run that put Xavier up 34-23 with 2:25 left before the break, but the Friars pulled within 34-26 by halftime.

Farr led all scorers with 11 points in the first 20 minutes, while Dunn and Bentil combined for 19.

NOTES: Tuesday's game between No. 7 Xavier and No. 10 Providence was the first featuring two top 10 teams at the Dunkin' Donuts Center. ... Friars sophomore F Ben Bentil was named Big East Player of the Week for the second time this season Monday. He averaged 25.5 points and 10.0 rebounds in the Friars' wins over then-No. 18 Butler on Jan. 19 and then-No. 4 Villanova on Jan. 24. ... Xavier senior F James Farr earned a spot on the Big East Weekly Honor Roll after averaging 15.0 points and 10.5 rebounds as the Musketeers lost to Georgetown on Jan. 19 and defeated Seton Hall on Jan. 23. ... Farr and Bentil entered the night as the Big East's top two offensive rebounders, averaging 3.4 and 3.2 respectively. ... Providence begins a two-game road trip Saturday at Georgetown. Xavier concludes its two-game trip Saturday at DePaul.

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