PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Providence coach Ed Cooley has been hearing a lot about how lucky his team has been to keep winning close games.
He hopes to start hearing about how much talent his 11th-ranked Friars have as well.
Jared Bynum scored 27 points, including a key 3-pointer to help Providence hold off Xavier 99-92 in triple overtime Wednesday night.
A.J. Reeves added 16 points and Al Durham had 13 to help the first-place Friars (23-3, 13-2 Big East) win their second consecutive overtime game. They are 3-0 in OT this season – all in the past four games – and it’s the first time in school history Providence has notched 13 Big East wins.
“We’re just really fortunate. For whatever reason we play well in close games,” Cooley said. “That luck better come from somewhere. It’s called talent.”
It was the first triple-overtime game in the Big East since St. John’s beat DePaul 90-82 on March 5, 2010. It was Providence’s first game of at least three OTs since it lost 79-77 in five overtimes to Dayton on Jan. 28, 1982.
A charter member of the Big East in 1979, the Friars can clinch their first regular-season conference championship by winning one of their final two games. They host Creighton on Saturday and visit No. 8 Villanova next Tuesday.
Adam Kunkel had 20 points and Paul Scruggs added 19 for Xavier (17-10, 7-9), which has lost two straight and seven of 10. Scruggs hit a tying 3-pointer as time expired in the second overtime.
“Those guys, they emptied the tank out there,” Musketeers coach Travis Steele said. “Give their guys credit, they made some big plays.”
A putback by Nate Watson put the Friars up 94-92. Kunkel missed a 3 on Xavier’s next possession and Bynum’s 3-pointer increased Providence’s lead to five with 27.8 seconds left.
Xavier missed a 3 and putback attempt on its next touch and Noah Horchler was fouled. He hit two free throws and, after another Musketeers miss, Providence was able to run out the clock.
“I’ll be lucky anytime of the day if we keep winning like this,” Watson said.
The last sequence followed wild finishes in each of the first two extra periods.
Zach Fremantle scored the first five points of the first OT to put Xavier up 75-70. But the Friars scored the final five points to send it to a second.
They carried that momentum forward and Bynum scored four quick points in the second OT to give the Friars a 79-75 lead.
The lead was down to 79-77 when a turnover gave the ball back to the Musketeers. Scruggs was fouled and hit both free throws to tie it.
The Friars turned it over again and Kunkel sank a floater in the lane with 1:43 left.
Bynum was fouled but made only one of two free throws.
Xavier missed its next time down the floor and Bynum knocked down a 15-foot jumper that gave Providence an 82-81 lead.
Kunkel got caught in the air in the lane and turned it over, leading to a Xavier foul. Alyn Breed, who hadn’t attempted a shot to that point, sank two free throws to make it 84-81.
Scruggs got it back to a point with his basket on the other end before two more free throws by Breed.
Two more free throws by Scruggs cut it to 86-85, but Xavier fouled Watson before the next inbounds – a flagrant foul. Watson made one of two, but Providence was immediately fouled again with six seconds left.
Breed hit the first but missed the second, allowing Scruggs to race up the court and swish a tying 3 from the wing at the buzzer.
Providence hasn’t played its cleanest basketball over the past two games, but remains in the driver’s seat to capture its first Big East regular-season title with two games to play. The Friars had three conference games canceled because of COVID-19.
Providence struggled to find an offensive flow in Sunday’s overtime win at Butler without Durham, who sat out with a sports hernia. He returned to the starting lineup, but some of the same issues again cropped up against the Musketeers.
Xavier led by as many as five in the second half before Reeves’ 3-pointer tied the game at 60 with 5:08 to play in regulation.
The Musketeers responded with a backdoor layup by Scruggs, followed by a corner 3-pointer by Horchler.
A short jumper by Kunkel put the Musketeers back in front 64-63.
The Friars missed twice coming out of a timeout, then turned it over when Justin Minaya’s inbounds pass was intercepted by Scruggs and passed ahead to Dwon Odom for a layup with 2:43 left.
Play was then stopped after condensation began to form on the court. The delay lasted about 15 minutes before play resumed.
Reeves knocked down a 3 to tie it on the ensuing possession, followed by a steal by Durham. He was fouled but connected on only one of two free throws to make it 67-66.
A tip-in by Jack Nunge put Xavier back in front before Watson went 1 for 2 at the foul line to leave the game tied.
Fremantle then got free for a layup to give the Musketeers a 70-68 edge with 45.2 seconds to go.
A turnaround jumper by Durham tied it again with 23 seconds left.
Xavier returns home to host Seton Hall on Saturday.
Providence celebrates Senior Day on Saturday when it hosts Creighton.