It’s OK To Not Be OK: Trey Moses’ battle for mental wellness

Courtesy Trey Moses
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MINNEAPOLIS — Zach Hollywood saved Trey Moses’ life.

That’s at least how Trey’s mother, Shelly, looks at it.

Trey has battled depression for half his life. The first time he remembers contemplating suicide came when he was in seventh grade. He told a friend that he wanted to die. He had a great family. He had great friends. He liked school. All of those things are still true. But there was a sadness within him that he just couldn’t shake. Still can’t.

Trey tried to end his own life in May of 2017, at the end of his sophomore year. It was yet another night that he spent crying, uncontrollably, when he took a bunch of pills. He immediately regretted it, calling a friend to take him to the hospital where he spent the next few days recovering. He had been hospitalized before, when he did not feel safe being by himself, but this was the first time that he went beyond self-harm.

Three months later Trey found Zach’s body, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. A devastating tragedy for Zach, his family, his friends, his teammates. An unimaginable burden for a 20-year old already struggling with his own mental wellness to carry.

Shelly was terrified, and still is, that Trey would be next. But she also now knows that Trey has seen the pain that Zach’s suicide caused everyone around him. “He never wants anybody to go through what he went through,” Shelly said.

She knows — she hopes — that will be enough to keep her only son here with her.


Courtesy Trey Moses

Trey is speaking about this publicly for the first time because he knows he can help.

He knows what it is like to appear to be a pillar of strength, all 6-foot-10 of him. He was an all-MAC power forward for Ball State. He has tattoos covering his body and a beard that would make James Harden jealous. He’s popular. He’s handsome. He is not yet 22 years old, and he’s getting ready for a fourth summer of running basketball clinics for people with Down Syndrome. He’s just a few weeks from getting his college degree.

He’s everything you hope your son will be.

He also knows that there are things he’s dealing with that people cannot see, and that he is far from the only person fighting this fight every day.

And he has a message.

It’s OK to not be OK.

This is why, 24 hours before Virginia and Texas Tech tip off in the 2019 national title game, he was sitting on a stage in the L100 F-G meeting room at the Minneapolis Convention Center baring his soul to a couple hundreds college coaches he had never met. He wants to help them help their players. He told his story to NBC Sports in the hopes that he can reach anyone and everyone that is going through the same things that he was, and very much still is, going through.

It’s OK to not be OK.

And if it helps just a single person better their life, it was worth it.

“I’m only telling my story because it will help other people,” he said. “It doesn’t benefit me.”

Trey knows there’s a stigma associated with people fighting for their mental wellness, and he knows all-too-well the shame that those with depression feel. He understands the vicious circle this creates. Speaking up, especially as an athlete in a world where toughness means fighting through pain — both physical and psychological — without complaint, gets you branded as soft. So you internalize it. You isolate yourself because it’s easier than explaining why an otherwise healthy human is struggling to hold it all together. That, in turn, only reinforces the belief that you are alone, that there is no one that cares, no one that loves you enough to say those six seemingly obvious words — “I want you to be alive” — because they can’t see through the facade that you’ve spent your life perfecting.

That’s why his message to those coaches wasn’t simply to list the warning signs. The complexities of depression manifests differently in everyone, and just recognizing the symptoms of a person in crisis won’t help them if they’re struggling.

“You don’t need to see the signs,” Trey told them. “You need to let your players know you care. Eventually they are going to open up. They chose you [to coach them] for a reason. But they need to know their coach does care about [them] more than just basketball. He’s going to be able to come to you, or your assistant, because you care.”

Ball State had a network surrounding Trey even before Zach’s death, once he opened up about his struggles with depression. They called it his Care Team, a group of professionals on campus there to work with the athletes while educating the basketball staff on the steps they needed to take and the resources they needed to provide. They coached the coaches on ways to be there for Trey once they fully understood his disease.

“It was above my pay grade,” James Whitford, Ball State’s head coach, said in a recorded speech presented at the NABC conference on Sunday. “I needed help.”

Coach Whit would have weekly, one-on-one meetings with every player on his roster just to catchup. He would also meet regularly with everyone that had any contact with the kids on his roster — from coaches to tutors to the guy helping the trainers wrap ice after practice. The goal was to ensure that Coach Whit knew what was happening with his team, and that his team knew his office door was always open.

“Are there things going on with our players that I’m not catching?” Whitford explained. “They bottle it up in practice, but it might show up in the academic center, or the health center, or other areas on campus.”

Trey recalled one particularly bad day that he had his junior year. It was two days before a game, less than a year removed from his own suicide attempt and only months after Zach died. The sadness was more than he could bear. He was crying in the training room, the place where he felt safest on campus. It was in that room two years earlier that Trey had told trainer Troy Hershman for the first time everything that he was dealing with. Coach Whit sent him home.

“Go back to your dorm,” Trey remembers being told. “Call your group. Make sure you’re good.”

He’s never questioned whether or not Coach Whit, or anyone on the Ball State staff, has cared for him. He trusts them completely, and it’s a reason that he’s still here today to share his story.

“My purpose is more than myself,” Trey said. “I feel like continuously putting this out there for people will help them. It’s OK to not be OK.

“Because it’s better than not being here.”


Courtesy Trey Moses

It was the morning after his 20th birthday party.

August 22nd, 2017.

Trey had woken up without time to spare. It was just the second day of classes, and he had a 9 a.m. to get to. He didn’t want to be that jock showing up late, at least not on the second day, and they had been up too late the night before.

He checked his phone.

Zach had called him. Four times.

4:10 a.m.

4:12 a.m.

4:16 a.m.

4:20 a.m.

Left two voicemails, too.

It was strange. Zach had left Trey’s house at 1:30 a.m. that morning. They were best friends, bonding over everything that they shared — a love for basketball, a passion for working with people with disabilities, a constant fight for mental wellness. They were inseparable from the moment that Zach arrived on campus, a “long, lanky white kid” from Bourbonnais, Ill., and a “big, tattooed African-American” from Louisville. They were nothing alike and exactly the same. Zach was Trey’s guy, the person he could turn to for anything, and Trey was Zach’s.

Zach was hurt after Trey’s suicide attempt. He couldn’t understand why his best friend didn’t come to him when he needed someone, why he didn’t trust him enough to be able to pick up the phone instead of picking up those pills. That weighed on Trey’s mind throughout the morning of August 22nd.

Is that why Zach was calling?

Why isn’t he picking up the phone?

But the worst case scenario didn’t make sense.

Zach was as happy as Trey had ever seen him at that birthday party. Maybe this was the moment, Trey remembers thinking. Maybe this is when he makes the turn. Maybe he already has. Zach’s mom had died a year earlier, losing her 20-year battle with ulcerative colitis on August 1st, 2016. Zach was in the Chicago hospital room when Susan took her final breath. He was a mama’s boy, and his mama was gone. Trey knew how much it weighed on him, but maybe he had finally turned a corner.

He’s happier, Trey thought that night. He’s getting better.

“I love you,” Zach said as he walked out the door.

That’s what was playing in Trey’s head as he called Zach’s phone that Tuesday morning. There was no answer. He called again. And again, more nervous with every ring.

“I didn’t want to think too much about it,” he said. “I’d be in touch later, we had a team meeting at 1 p.m.”

Trey happened to run into Zach’s roommate right around lunch time and convinced him to open up the door to Zach’s off-campus apartment. Just a hello. Checking in.

At 12:15 p.m., Trey found Zach’s body.

Trey called 911.

He checked Zach for a pulse.

He was gone.


Courtesy Shelly Moses

Trey is in a good place now, all things considered, but it wasn’t an easy road to get there.

After finding Zach’s body, Trey called Shelly and told here what happened. He texted an assistant coach that he and Zach would not be at their 1 p.m. meeting. “Don’t ask questions,” he wrote, “just let us be.” Eventually, the lead detective on the scene called Coach Whit from Trey’s phone. He was taken to the police station for a few hours before he was allowed to go home. After an emotional meeting with the rest of the team, one that consisted of little more than tears and hugs, he went straight to Coach Whit’s house.

“Just a chance to chill out,” Trey said.

He still had not listened to Zach’s voicemails. He doesn’t know why it took him so long to listen. In his heart of hearts, he figured something had happened. He wasn’t ready for it, not yet.

That night, he gathered all of his best friends and listened.

“It was just him saying how much he loved me, how much of a change I can make, how good at basketball I can be,” Trey said. “‘Go get it, go get everything we planned together. Give it your all, I’m always going to watch over you.’ I could hear how much pain he was in.

“And I was mad at him.”

That anger eventually resided only to be replaced by regret, by guilt.

“For so long I lived with, ‘Man, what if I just woke up?'” he said. “‘I wish I would have been there.’ All these wishes. But I realized that won’t bring him back. That’s only going to bring me more down. So I attack the positive side.

“One of the things Coach Whit always says is we would have walked barefoot to Alaska and back to save him. I know how much I cared about him, how much he meant to me, how much I loved him. I can’t live with regret. If he had called and I had said, ‘You’re good bro, just go to bed,’ I would be living with regret.

“I didn’t hear it. I was asleep. If I would have woken up, I would have been there.”

To hear Trey tell it, what has saved him, what has allowed him to reach this point in his life, is that he will talk about his feelings now. Immediately after Zach died, Ball State brought in a sports psychologist to speak with the team. They gave him a list of every single thing that he would go through in the coming days, months, years. He sent that list to everyone he knew, everyone he loved.

This is what I’m going to be dealing with. This is what you can expect. Thank you for helping me on this journey.

“I missed it when Trey was growing up. I had no idea that he dealt with depression like he did,” Shelly said. “People always tell me, ‘you’re a great mom,’ but I look now, and I wasn’t. Because he didn’t think that he could talk to me.”

That’s changed.

Trey reaches out now, and Shelly goes out of her way to make herself available. She’ll check in on him at 1 a.m. if he makes a sad post on Twitter or Instagram. Now that she knows what to look for she can tell instantly when he’s struggling with something. His smile isn’t there. His attitude changes. He’s not as focused. But those moments are gradually getting less common.

“He wants to do stuff now,” Shelly said. “He used to come home and just sit around.”

It’s been a long road getting to this point. Going into the locker room they used to share every day never got easier. Learning that different people cope in different ways was tough, too. It was hard for Trey to initially understand how his teammates could keep playing basketball after Zach was gone, but he gets it now. People grieve in different ways. It was hard for him to play this season, when so many new faces on the Ball State roster didn’t know Zach, but just because their season wasn’t dedicated to him didn’t mean that Trey couldn’t play for his best friend.

And there were always reminders of the good times. Trey changed his number from 41 to Zach’s 24. He and Shelly then went and got matching 241 — 24 to 41 — tattoos.

241 is the exit off the highway that Shelly takes to get to Ball State

But the symbolism is deeper than that.

Two for one.


Courtesy Shelly Moses

There isn’t a day that goes by that Shelly doesn’t worry about her son, but it’s getting easier.

Trey doesn’t want to put the people he loves through what he went through losing Zach.

But there’s more to it than that.

He can’t leave his Best Buddies behind.

Trey’s passion is not basketball. He wants to play professionally — he recently signed with an agent and expects to be in Europe next year — and he’ll do that for as long as he can, but he believes the reason he’s on this Earth is to help people with developmental disabilities.

He’s run basketball camps in Louisville, Indiana and Canada for people with Downs Syndrome. As a high school senior, he went viral when he asked his friend, Ellie, with Downs Syndrome to be his date to the prom. (She said yes.) He had two friends that have become family, Luke and Mickey, walk out for his Senior Night at Ball State with him and his parents. That’s what he will be doing for the rest of his life. Basketball is what gave him the platform.

“It’s rewarding. It gives me a purpose,” Trey said. “These kids are counting on me to be there for them. I don’t want to go into their lives and then suddenly not be there anymore. I just know that my impact on them was more than, ‘Oh that’s a basketball player.'”

They’re family.

Like Zach.

Trey wanted the story to end with this: Zach’s smile was radiant. He lit up a room. The moment that personified that, in Trey’s mind, came the summer before Zach died. That long, lanky white kid from Bourbonnais, Ill., had spent the summer trying to put on muscle. One day after a weights session, Zach told Trey he felt big.

“Come on, bro. Let’s take a pic.”

That picture, that memory, is everlasting.

RIP Hollywood.

Courtesy Trey Moses

Alabama coach Nate Oats gets new 6-year, $30 million deal

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Marvin Gentry/USA TODAY Sports
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama coach Nate Oats has agreed to a new six-year, $30 million contract amid the program’s best regular season in decades.

Oats will average $5 million plus incentives over the deal running through the 2028-29 season under a deal approved Friday by the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees Compensation Committee.

It makes him the fourth-highest paid basketball coach in the Southeastern Conference and among the Top 10 nationally, athletic director Greg Byrne said.

Oats, who is in his fourth season, will make $4.5 million for the first year with $200,000 annual raises. The fourth-ranked Crimson Tide (19-3, 9-0 SEC) has the team’s highest ranking this deep into a season since 1976-77.

“I am honored and humbled to receive a contract extension from the University of Alabama,” Oats said in a statement. “As I have said many times, my family and I love this community, the city of Tuscaloosa and the university.

“I am incredibly proud of what we have been able to build during our time at UA which is a direct reflection of the student-athletes, coaches and staff who have all played a big part in our success. I am excited for what’s happening in the future of our program and the direction we are heading.”

Alabama has gone 80-39 under Oats, winning the 2021 SEC regular season and tournament championships.

“Coach Oats has done an outstanding job leading our men’s basketball program, and we want him to continue doing so for many years to come,” Byrne said in a statement. “He and his staff have lifted the program back to national prominence and built a product that is exciting to be a part of for our team and for our fans.

“We were confident Nate was going to be an outstanding coach for us when we hired him, and he is not only that, but also a great leader of our young men.”

The new contract comes nearly three weeks after Alabama basketball player Darius Miles and another man were charged with capital murder following a fatal shooting near campus. Miles, a reserve forward, was removed from the team and suspended from the university following his arrest.

Duke women’s coach Kara Lawson says men’s ball used vs. FSU

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Duke coach Kara Lawson said her team played with a men’s basketball for the first half of a loss to Florida Stated.

The 16th-ranked Blue Devils lost to the Seminoles 70-57 in Tallahassee, Florida – the team’s second Atlantic Coast Conference loss of the season.

After her team beat Pittsburgh 53-44 , Lawson ended her news conference by speaking animatedly.

“This would never happen in a men’s game. This would never happen. It’s embarrassing for our sport,” she said.

The circumference of a women’s ball is about an inch smaller than a men’s ball and it is typically 2 ounces lighter. While it may not seem like a lot, that’s a big difference.

Lawson said throughout the first half, Duke players were “complaining about the ball.” The Blue Devils were 7 for 34 from the field in the opening 20 minutes of that game. They were 12 for 38 in the second half. Florida State made 10 of its 30 shots in the first two quarters and 14 of 31 in the second half.

“To have a game that, at the end of the season, could be the difference between a seed, between a title, my players don’t deserve that and neither do their players,” Lawson said. “It’s a complete failure. And you can figure out who the people I’m talking about that failed the sport and our players and both teams.”

Lawson said assistant coach Winston Gandy went to the scorer’s table at the half to check on the ball when he realized what the problem was. She said the game officials changed the ball to start the second half.

“We have concluded through our investigation that it was a men’s ball,” Lawson said. “The conference and Florida State is saying that it wasn’t.”

The ACC said it did a comprehensive review talking with game officials, administrators, the table crew and both schools.

“Following the thorough and objective review process, there was no evidence found to support the claim,” the conference said in a statement. “Per NCAA playing rules, there is no appeal or protest process.”

The ACC has instituted a procedural change that the game ball will be brought to the pregame meeting with the captains for approval.

“It’s very frustrating that (the game) … was not treated with the utmost respect that players on both teams deserve,” she said.

This wasn’t the first time this has happened in women’s basketball. In 2017, the College of Charleston played home games and practiced with men’s balls for most of its season until the error was was discovered.

“Let me be clear: Florida State beat us. They beat us playing with a men’s ball in the first half and a women’s ball in the second half. But I can’t say if we’d have played with a women’s ball in the first half and the second half that we would have won. But they can’t say that either,” Lawson said.

No. 1 South Carolina wins 28th straight 87-69 over ‘Cats

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — Dawn Staley’s pleased South Carolina had made its once-lopsided series with UConn more competitive the past few years.

She hopes her top-ranked team can accomplish another milestone when the teams meet for a top-five showdown on Sunday.

“It still stands true that we haven’t won up there,” Staley said.

Aliyah Boston had 14 points and 14 rebounds as South Carolina prepared for the top-five showdown with an 87-69 victory over Kentucky on Thursday night.

The Gamecocks (10-0 Southeastern Conference) improved to 22-0 and won their 28th straight, a run that included a 64-49 victory over the Huskies in Minneapolis last April to win the national championship.

Staley had lost her first seven games as South Carolina coach against UConn. The Gamecocks have won three of the past four matchups since.

“This particular class committed to each other,” Staley said. “When you have that type of commitment and you just want to win, you find yourself winning some games that you haven’t won before.”

Against Kentucky, reigning AP player of the year Boston extended her school mark with her 75th career double-double and moved within 11 of the SEC record of 86 games with a double-double held by LSU great Sylvia Fowles.

Things weren’t perfect for South Carolina, which fell behind early, then had its 15-point halftime lead cut to 54-48 midway through the third quarter.

Still, its dominant inside game – South Carolina outscored the Wildcats 62-14 in the paint – was more than enough to shut down Kentucky (10-12, 2-8), the last team to defeat the defending national champions at the SEC Tournament last March.

The Wildcats went on top 16-15 after a pair of baskets by Adebola Adeyeye.

That’s when South Carolina, fueled by its bench, took control with a 17-2 run. Ashlyn Watkins had three inside shots and Kamilla Cardoso scored four points during the surge.

The Wildcats used a 13-4 burst to start the third quarter to give South Carolina a few uncomfortable moments. But the Gamecocks got going once more with an 11-0 run to extend their margin.

Cardoso, the 6-foot-7 reserve, had 14 points and five of South Carolina’s 14 blocks. Defensive ace Brea Beal had 10 including both of the Gamecocks’ 3-pointers.

Beal thought the team held together well to blunt Kentucky’s runs and regain control. “I think it’s our mental aspect of the game and us believing in each other,” she said.

Robyn Benton had 24 points to lead Kentucky, which has lost three of its past four games.

Wildcats coach Kyra Elzy said South Carolina is difficult to match up with because of its deep bench. “They have depth after depth after depth,” she said. “They keep coming.”

BIG PICTURE

Kentucky: The Wildcats are the not the same team that featured two-time SEC player of the year Rhyne Howard the past few seasons. They have 10 newcomers – and six freshmen – who are still learning how to play against the SEC’s top teams like South Carolina.

South Carolina: Forgive the Gamecocks if their focus wasn’t fully on this one at first with a big week ahead. In an eight-game span, South Carolina will face No. 5 UConn and No. 3 LSU, a pair of high-profile games could expose any flaw – or show how powerful the Gamecocks are in chasing a second straight NCAA crown.

UCONN KARMA

South Carolina has opened 22-0 twice under coach Dawn Staley, in 2014-15 and the following year. Both runs ended against UConn. Next up for Gamecocks are the Huskies, although South Carolina has won three of the past four games over UConn including last April’s 64-49 victory to win the NCAA Tournament title.

UP NEXT

Kentucky returns home to face Alabama on Feb. 9.

South Carolina heads to No. 5 UConn on Sunday.

Miles, Citron lead No. 9 Irish past Boston College 72-59

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BOSTON — Olivia Miles and Sonia Citron had already scored 10 straight points to put away Boston College when they turned their attention to other things.

“I told Sonia I needed two more assists for the double-double. And she was like, `All right, I’ve got you,”‘ Miles said after helping No. 9 Notre Dame beat BC 72-59 on Thursday night.

“That’s just kind of our communication on the court,” said Miles, who found Citron for baskets on the next two Irish possessions to complete a 14-0 run – with all 14 points from Miles and Citron. “We just really play off each other really well.

Miles scored 22 points with 10 assists and eight rebounds, and Citron scored 23 for the Irish (18-2, 9-1 Atlantic Coast Conference).

Maria Gakdeng scored 16 points, T’Yana Todd had 13 and Andrea Daly scored 10 with eight rebounds for BC (14-11, 4-8). The Irish beat BC at home 85-48 on New Year’s Day but hadn’t won in Chestnut Hill since 2019.

“This is such a tough place to play,” said Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey, whose team faces No. 16 Duke next. “We’ll celebrate it until about 12:30, and then we’ve got film. Tomorrow we start focusing on Duke.”

BC came within five points, 55-50, before the Irish ran off 14 points in a row – nine by Citron, and five by Miles. That put an end to what had been a back-and-forth game in which the Irish opened big leads and then frittered them away.

“I always feel like we’re close,” BC coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee said. “They’re young; I think consistency comes with experience.

“I think it’s a big improvement from the first time we played Notre Dame,” she said. “I still want to see more, and I want to see us grow up as fast as humanly possible because I think we do have a dangerous team when we going well.”

Notre Dame led by 11 in the first quarter and held a 38-30 lead with two minutes gone in the third. BC scored 13 of the next 18 points, capitalizing on back-to-back Irish turnovers to tie it 43-all with three minutes left in the quarter.

But Natalija Marshall put back the rebound of her own miss, Miles drove to the basket, Maddy Westbeld added a pair of baskets and then Miles stole the ball and found Citron on the fast break to make it 53-43.

BIG PICTURE

Notre Dame bounced back from their first league loss of the season, a 69-65 defeat at North Carolina State on Sunday. Now they face No. 16 Duke.

The Eagles, who beat Pittsburgh on Sunday to snap a five-game losing streak, were looking for their second victory over a Top 25 team this season, having also beaten then-No. 10 N.C. State on Jan. 5.

UP NEXT

Notre Dame: Hosts No. 16 Duke on Sunday.

Boston College: Visits Syracuse on Sunday.

No. 16 Xavier beats No. 17 Providence 85-83 in OT thriller

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Kareem Elgazzar/USA TODAY NETWORK
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CINCINNATI — Jack Nunge had 23 points and 14 rebounds as No. 16 Xavier held off No. 17 Providence 85-83 in an overtime thriller Wednesday night.

Colby Jones and Souley Boum each scored 20 for the Musketeers, who won a first-place showdown in the Big East without injured forward Zach Freemantle.

Noah Locke had 22 points and Ed Croswell added 21 for Providence (17-6, 9-3), which had beaten Xavier three straight times.

A layup by Boum put the Musketeers (18-5, 10-2) ahead 82-79 with 51 seconds remaining in overtime. A turnover by the Musketeers led to a layup by Devin Carter that cut Xavier’s lead to one with 24 seconds left.

Boum hit one of two free throws, and Jared Bynum’s 3-point attempt from the left corner rimmed out at the buzzer as the Musketeers held on.

Xavier played its first game without Freemantle, the team’s leading rebounder and second-leading scorer. He is expected to miss four weeks with a left foot injury, the same foot that required surgery in 2021.

Jerome Hunter, who has excelled off the bench for the Musketeers, made his first start of the season and scored nine points with eight rebounds. Xavier had used the same starting lineup in each of its previous 11 Big East games.

Things started well for the Musketeers. who went on a 12-1 run to build a 25-11 lead.

With Boum on the bench with two fouls, the Musketeers didn’t have a field goal in the final 4:18 of the first half and the Friars pulled to 39-35 at halftime.

Providence outscored Xavier 8-2 to start the second half and took its first lead, 43-41, with 17:41 left.

There was a frantic finish to the second half, with Adam Kunkel’s 3-pointer putting Xavier ahead 76-73 with 55 seconds left. But then Bynum banked in a tying 3 and Boum missed two long shots to send the game to overtime.

BIG PICTURE

Providence: The Friars, who won their first Big East regular-season title last year, entered the night tied atop the conference standings with Xavier and No. 14 Marquette, which hosted Villanova later. Providence was picked fifth in the preseason.

Xavier: Hunter, who averages 14 minutes, left with three minutes remaining in OT with an apparent cramp in his right leg. With Freemantle out, Hunter played 36 minutes.

UP NEXT

Providence: Hosts last-place Georgetown on Wednesday.

Xavier: Will host St. John’s on Saturday.