Providence upsets No. 5 Xavier 81-72
By JIMMY GOLEN, AP Sports Writer
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Another layup bounced off the rim, Providence forward Rodney Bullock grabbed the defensive rebound with about 20 seconds left and Xavier coach Chris Mack stood in front of his bench with both hands in the air.
It was time to surrender.
The best start in Musketeers history was over, along with the second-longest winning streak in Mack’s tenure at the school.
“It certainly wasn’t our day,” Mack said Saturday after fifth-ranked Xavier lost to the Friars 81-72 to snap a 10-game winning streak. “We know who Providence is. We know what each of their strengths is. But being able to take it away, that’s different.”
Kyron Cartwright had 19 points, nine assists and four steals, and Bullock scored 17 with six rebounds and two blocked shots as the Friars (11-6, 2-2 Big East) beat a ranked team for the first time this season.
“Our kids met the challenge today,” said Providence coach Ed Cooley, whose Friars lost to No. 25 Creighton on Sunday and lost in overtime to Marquette on Wednesday. “Life in the Big East, it’s a monster every single game.”
Kerem Kanter had 24 points and 12 rebounds — eight on the offensive boards — in 20 minutes for Xavier (15-2, 3-1). Tyrique Jones, who had 12 points and seven rebounds, was the only other Musketeer to make more than half his shots.
Trevon Bluiett, who leads Xavier with 19.8 points per game, had 12 points but was scoreless in the second half. “Maybe it just wasn’t his day today, because I think he’s one of the best players in the country,” Cooley said.
It was the Friars’ 11th win over a top-5 team, and their first since beating No. 4 Villanova two years ago.
To counter a 44-28 rebounding advantage for Xavier — and a 22-0 whitewash in second-chance points — Providence had 11 steals, nine blocks and a 19-6 edge in points off turnovers.
“Our errant shots, our wild, reckless shots and our inability to handle the ball in the first half really put us behind the eight ball,” Mack said. “We gave them a lot of confidence for the first 25 minutes because we were throwing the ball in the stands.”
WELCOME TO P-P-P-PROVIDENCE
It wasn’t just the Xavier shooting that was ice cold.
With temperatures in the single digits on Saturday morning, the crowd of 12,630 found more than just a place to warm up at the Dunkin Donuts Center.
Mack was less enthused about the weather, saying he texted Cooley on Friday night to complain.
“I told him it’s too cold,” Mack said. “Whoever controls the heat in the building, good luck with that.”
Providence fell behind early but scored nine straight points to turn a five-point deficit into a 14-10 lead and never trailed again. After Xavier tied it 16-all, the Friars scored eight in a row — starting with a three-point play by Cartwright and a 3-pointer from Bullock — and then made it double digits on Jalen Lindsey’s 3 with 5:47 left in the half.
Trailing 40-32 at the half, Xavier scored five straight to open the second and got within two points with 13 minutes to play. But Providence extended it to nine points, 68-59, with under eight to play, and the Musketeers never again got closer than six.
“We came out and took that first punch and we were good from there,” Lindsey said.
Xavier: Thus ends the second-longest win streak for the team under Mack. The Musketeers, who had been off to a 3-0 Big East start and 15-1 overall record, both the best in school history, might have been looking ahead to No. 3 Villanova on Wednesday. Mack remains one win shy of tying Pete Gillen for most victories by an Xavier coach.
Providence: PC is 5-1 against Xavier in Providence, including last year’s victory in February. The Friars went 3-6 against ranked teams last season.
Xavier: At No. 3 Villanova on Wednesday.
Providence: At DePaul on Friday.
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