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

xavier basketball
Kareem Elgazzar/USA TODAY NETWORK
1 Comment

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.

Hopkins scores 27 to help Providence beat No. 4 UConn 73-61

M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
0 Comments

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Bryce Hopkins scored 27 points and Providence dominated the second half and knocked off fourth-ranked UConn 73-61 on Wednesday night for their eighth straight victory.

Noah Locke added 17 points to help the Friars (13-3, 5-0) earn their second win over a ranked team this season and remain unbeaten in the Big East. It was Providence’s first win over the Huskies at Amica Mutual Pavilion since Feb. 20, 2012, when the Friars won 72-70. They played on campus during the pandemic.

Jordan Hawkins led the Huskies (14-2, 3-2) with 15 points, and Donovan Clingan added 12 points and 11 rebounds.

The Huskies have lost two in a row after opening the season with 14 straight wins and winning their first three conference games. UConn was held under 70 points for only the second time this season. The Huskies entered averaging 82 points per game.

The Friars added to a three-point halftime lead thanks to going 8 of 18 from the 3-point line and outscoring the Huskies 29-10 at the free-throw line.

Ed Croswell finished a fast break with a two-handed slam to put the Friars in front 51-43 as part of a 13-8 run that put the Friars in front 56-46 with just over nine minutes to play.

UConn cut it to 60-55, and a few possessions later Hopkins was whistled for a charge – his fourth foul – with 4:54 left. But he stayed aggressive, getting fouled after a Huskies turnover and dropping in a pair of free throws to help Providence pushed the lead back up to 64-55 with 3:33 showing on the clock.

Providence won a mad scramble after three misses on its next possession, with Locke dropping in a deep 3 from the wing.

Providence led for just 2:26 in the first half but used a late surge to take a 33-30 edge into the break.

The Huskies leaned on their size advantage early, compacting the Friars in the half court and forcing them into some unbalanced shots.

UConn controlled the glass, outrebounding Providence 21-14 and holding a 22-8 edge in the paint in the opening 20 minutes.

The Friars were hot from the outside, though, going 5 of 9 from beyond the arc despite shooting just 5 of 15 from two-point range.

They also were able to generate offense without starter Jared Bynum, who went to the locker room with a midsection injury and sat out the final 11 minutes of the half. Alyn Breed took his place in the lineup to begin the second half, with Bynum remaining on the bench the rest of the way.

BIG PICTURE

UConn: This is not the start to conference play the Huskies were looking for after winning their first three. They lost 83-73 at No. 22 Xavier over the weekend.

Providence: The Friars continue to find a way to stay in ball games, this time negating a big height disadvantage by hitting outside shots and getting to the line. That will help them stay in almost every game as they try to defend their regular-season Big East title.

UP NEXT

UConn returns home to host Creighton on Saturday.

Providence hosts St. John’s on Saturday.

For Miami’s Jim Larranaga, a milestone 700th win awaits

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — It’s almost like Miami coach Jim Larranaga wrote the script. A game against his alma mater, one win away from a milestone few have reached.

That’s the scenario.

Larranaga and Miami take on Providence in the opening round of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament in Uncasville, Connecticut – with the Hurricanes’ coach, and 1971 Providence graduate, entering with 699 career wins.

“People talk about milestones,” Larranaga said. “I’ve been at this a long time. I enjoy the coaching. If I get to my 700th win, I’m hoping it will be this season. I hope I don’t have to coach another year to get to it. Only got one more to get; I’m assuming I’ll get there at some point. But quite honestly, it’s more about this team trying to play its best basketball on Saturday at 4 o’clock against a very fine opponent.”

When Larranaga – who is in season No. 39 as a head coach – gets there, he will become the 34th Division I men’s coach with 700 wins on his official NCAA resume, and the ninth active coach on that list. Iona’s Rick Pitino likely will be next; he needs 15 more to officially reach 700.

At 73, Larranaga shows no signs of slowing down. Miami won 26 games last season and reached the Elite Eight, falling there to eventual national champion Kansas, in Larranaga’s deepest postseason run since taking George Mason to the Final Four in 2006. This season’s Miami team has opened with three double-digit wins, and a win over Providence would move the Hurricanes to 4-0 for the first time in the last four years.

“Coach L, obviously, he’s been doing this for many years,” Miami guard Bensley Joseph said. “I feel like it’s just instilled in his mind, what he preaches, what he wants from us players and his message to us is very on-point, very understandable. However many years Coach L goes, he just doesn’t want to stop. Basketball is instilled in his mind. He loves the game. He loves us players. He wants us to be great at life and on the court.”

Larranaga’s career started when he was 27, hired at Division II American International. He won his first game, 84-66 over UMass-Boston.

The game has changed quite a bit since then. Larranaga hasn’t.

Guests at practice are greeted with handshakes from every player. Practices begin with some inspirational words, not always said by Larranaga either. The tenets of Miami basketball – “the 10 habits,” he calls them – are repeated. It sets a tone, and the Hurricanes get to work.

“We do it every day,” Joseph said. “Coach L is like a teacher to us. I love learning from him.”

Turns out, Larranaga has been that way from the beginning.

Major Jennings is the principal at Buzz Aldrin Middle School in Montclair, New Jersey. He was a longtime high school basketball and volleyball coach, and some of the lessons he taught those teams were ones he learned from Larranaga – his coach at American International. Jennings led Larranaga’s first team in scoring.

“You could tell he knew the game,” Jennings said. “He wasn’t a yeller. He was more of a instructor. He’s a great teacher. He always had a detailed report on the opposition, their strengths, their weaknesses, what we had to do to be successful.”

When Larranaga went to the Final Four in 2006, Jennings had to go as well to show his respect.

“It really means so much to see a really good guy starting his coaching days at the Division II level and working his way up,” Jennings said. “He always aspired to get better, to be better and to be a part of his legacy in a really small way from a small school in New England makes me feel tremendously blessed.”

Larranaga still ranks among Providence’s career scoring leaders. The short shorts, replete with metal belt buckle, of that era send his grandchildren into hysterics when they see the photographs. But his game was no joke; he had a 20-point, 15-assist, 12-rebound triple-double when he was there, though some of the details of that game escaped him until reminded about it this week.

He’s also 0-2 against Providence (3-0) as a coach. Those losses have not been forgotten.

Larranaga’s first time coaching against Providence was in the championship game of the 1989 Fleet Basketball Classic. The other was a matchup in the 2014 Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational.

The first one, Larranaga and Bowling Green led by 10 with 6 1/2 minutes left, only to get outscored 15-3 the rest of the way and lose 81-79. The other, Miami fell apart in the second half and lost 76-62.

But weirdly, had either of those games gone Larranaga’s way, he wouldn’t have had the chance that now awaits. He’d have No. 700 already.

“I think beating Providence anytime in basketball is a big accomplishment,” Larranaga said. “But it’s not about my wins. It’s about this year’s team.”

Martin scores 23, top-seeded Kansas beats Providence 66-61

Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

CHICAGO – Kansas’ Jalen Wilson noticed the excitement on the other side.

The top-seeded Jayhawks went from leading by 13 in the second half to trailing Providence by a point with their season in danger of slipping away.

But the only No. 1 seed left in the NCAA Tournament responded to that brief challenge, stood firm and closed out a 66-61 victory on Friday night to reach the Elite Eight.

“I saw how excited they were getting, they started talking a little bit,” Wilson said. “I’m still confident in my team. We would never get rattled. We’ve seen every type of game, every type of situation. I’m just always confident in whatever comes our way.”

Remy Martin scored a season-high 23 points, and Kansas held Providence to 17 points in the first half.

The Jayhawks (31-6) made it farther than fellow No. 1 seeds Gonzaga and Arizona, both ousted in the Sweet 16, and Baylor, whose title defense ended in the second round. They will face either Miami or Iowa State in the Midwest Region final on Sunday.

Wilson added 16 points and 11 rebounds as the Jayhawks advanced to a regional final for the first time since 2018, when they reached their 15th Final Four. Coach Bill Self is seeking his fourth trip there since he arrived in 2003.

Kansas also moved ahead of Kentucky for most wins in Division I history with 2,354.

“I don’t know that I totally buy in 100 percent that we don’t ever get rattled,” Self said. “But I do think, as Jalen said, our league (the Big 12) has prepared us in the way you play so many close games. Every game is a fistfight. I think our guys have enough confidence that when things don’t go well as a team, they think that they can go make an individual play.”

After fourth-seeded Providence (27-6) took its one-point lead, Kansas responded with a 7-0 run.

Big 12 Player of the Year Ochai Agbaji scored a season-low five points. But with Martin and Wilson leading the way, the Jayhawks won their eighth straight.

“All the practices, everything that we’ve done leading up to this point, we revert back to that,” Martin said. “We work really hard in practice, we do what needs to be done, we listen to Coach.”

And in situations like this?

“Stay calm, let each other know that they’re gonna go through their runs, but as long as we stick together, as we’ve been doing all season, we’re gonna get through this,” Martin said.

Providence finished with its highest win total since the 1973-74 team went 28-4. It was the Friars’ deepest NCAA Tournament run since reaching the regional finals in 1997 under Pete Gillen.

Al Durham scored 21 points. But the Friars shot 33.8% and made 4 of 23 3-pointers.

“I thought our team all year played with a resolve and a resilience that was second to none in America,” coach Ed Cooley said. “These kids – men – battled through a lot of adversity. … I’m not gonna let our men’s heads be down. This was one hell of a season, and we got beat by a great team.”

Durham, who transferred after four years at Indiana, called the Friars “a special group.”

“We were well connected, we all loved each other,” he said.

FRIARS RALLY

Kansas led 26-17 at halftime and 36-23 early in the second half before Providence went on a 9-2 run, capped by Ed Croswell’s three-point play.

That drew a loud roar from the Friars’ fans, and they had more to cheer after Noah Horchler nailed two 3-pointers in about a 50-second span to cut it to 41-40 midway through the half.

Reeves tied it at 44-all when he hit two free throws, and Horchler gave Providence its first lead at 48-47 when he scored on a layup with 5:49 remaining.

JAYHAWKS REGROUP

Wilson drove for a three-point play to put the Jayhawks back on top. Christian Braun drove for a layup, and David McCormack put back a wild miss by Wilson following a steal, making it 54-48 with 4:12 to play.

Agbaji had the Kansas contingent roaring when he threw down an alley-oop dunk to make it 57-50. A.J. Reeves answered with a 3 for Providence, but Kansas remained on top the rest of the way.

BIG PICTURE

Providence: The Friars made a huge jump after finishing 13-13 a year ago. They won their first Big East regular-season championship and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2018.

Kansas: The Jayhawks delivered another solid defensive effort, particularly early on, and made enough shots to keep their championship hopes alive. They led by nine at the break after allowing their lowest point total in a half this season.

UP NEXT

Kansas will try to remain unbeaten since a 74-64 loss at TCU on March 1.

Providence routs Richmond to get to 1st Sweet 16 in 25 years

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Noah Horchler scored 16 points and Providence had its best 3-point shooting performance of the season, routing 12th-seeded Richmond 79-51 on Saturday night to advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 25 years.

The fourth-seeded Friars (27-5) will face Kansas, the top seed in the Midwest Region, in Chicago next week.

Providence has made living this season on winning the close ones, 16 in all by single digits. The Friars talked this week about being well aware of their skeptics and motivated by being called the luckiest team in America.

The Big East regular-season champions looked like a juggernaut against Richmond.

Providence controlled the game from the start and went up 21 on the Spiders (24-13) less than two minutes into the second half when Horchler swished a 3 from the corner. The Friars shot 52% from the field, and a season-best 54.5% from 3. They came in shooting 34.3% from long range.

The Friars are past the first weekend of the tournament for the first time in six tries under 11th-year coach and Providence native Ed Cooley.

The Friars last advanced past the second round in 1997 when they reached the Elite Eight. The only other time was 1987 when they went to the Final Four under coach Rick Pitino.

Richmond crashed the tournament by winning four games in four days to take the Atlantic 10 championship as a sixth seed, and then upset Iowa in the first round.

Providence never gave the Spiders much hope to spring another surprise. The Friars scored the first seven points. They were getting open shots and knocking them down, and keeping Richmond’s Princeton offense out of the paint on the defensive end, something Iowa struggled to do.

The Friars’ lead reached 16 when Justin Minaya made a 3 from the wing with 9:17 left in the first half. When Horchler dropped in this his third 3-pointer of the half with 19 seconds left, it was 39-24 and Providence had made 8 of 15 from behind the arc.

Richmond’s iron man point guard Jacob Gilyard put up an air ball at the other end to finish the half 0 for 6 from the field. Gilyard, who had played every minute of the Spiders’ previous six games, finished his decorated six-year college career with four points.

Gilyard finally exited the game with 1:15 remaining, receiving a long hug from coach Chris Mooney. Fellow sixth-year senior Grant Golden (10 points and five rebounds) also was greeted with a warm embrace from his coach.

Cooley allowed some of his walk-ons to play the final minute. Before the regulars made their way to the bench for one last huddle, A.J. Reeves looked to the crowd of Friars fans in the stands, smiled and said: “Sweet 16. Sweet 16.”

BIG PICTURE

Richmond: Nathan Cayo led the Spiders with 18 points on 9-of-11 shooting. The rest of the team was 12 for 42 (28.5%).

The Spiders have been to the regional semifinals twice before, including in 2011 under Mooney.

Providence: The Friars had shot over 50% from 3-point range in only one other game this season. They made 53.3% in a win over DePaul on Jan. 1.

UP NEXT

Providence will play Kansas for the first time.

Durham hits clutch 3 to send No. 11 Providence past Butler

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

NEW YORK — Al Durham has made plenty of big shots for Providence this season – at the foul line. He was about the last guy anyone would expect to sink a critical 3-pointer.

That’s just how this charmed season has played out for the 11th-ranked Friars.

Durham drained a go-ahead 3 with 41 seconds left for his first basket of the game, and Providence barely got past pesky Butler 65-61 in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals Thursday.

“It was a little rough there for a second,” Durham said. “But, like you said, the last shot went in.”

Nate Watson scored a season-high 26 points for the top-seeded Friars (25-4), who avoided an early exit at Madison Square Garden after winning the first regular-season conference championship in school history.

Jared Bynum, the league’s sixth man of the year, added 16 points off the bench and defensive specialist Justin Minaya made two huge blocks as Providence advanced to the Big East semifinals for the first time since 2018 and fifth since the 2013-14 realignment.

“We didn’t do a lot of things great but we did enough to win,” said Ed Cooley, the Big East coach of the year. “And I think today was a microcosm of the type of season we’re having.”

The gritty Friars, playing for the first time in nine days, improved to 11-2 in games decided by five points or fewer. They will face No. 4 seed Creighton, a 74-63 winner over fifth-seeded Marquette, in the opener of Friday night’s doubleheader.

“Wasn’t pretty out there. We definitely showed some rust,” Cooley said. “I think a lot of that credit goes to the way Butler defended us. But just like the season has gone, I guess we saved our best for last.”

Chuck Harris had 14 points and Bryce Golden scored all 13 of his points in the second half for the ninth-seeded Bulldogs (14-19), who rallied late to beat No. 8 seed Xavier in overtime in the first round Wednesday.

Bo Hodges added 10 points and a career-best 15 rebounds. Butler, however, finished 3 for 19 from 3-point range and shot 36% overall.

“You know, it’s March, so the ball bounces one way or the other,” coach LaVall Jordan said. “A lot of credit to Providence. They’ve been doing this all year in close games. They’ve had guys that have made the shot or made the play. They’ve been surviving and advancing way beyond now. But proud of our guys for the effort and the fight.”

In the first of four sold-out quarterfinals, a boisterous crowd was decidedly in Providence’s favor.

The score was tied 55-all late in a back-and-forth second half before Simas Lukosius sank two free throws and Golden made a layup to give the Bulldogs a three-point lead with 2:38 left.

Watson snagged a loose ball out of the air, dropped in a layup and drew a foul with 1:20 remaining. But he missed the free throw that could have tied it.

Minaya blocked a shot by Harris and the ball went out of bounds to Providence. A.J. Reeves found Durham in the left corner and the Indiana transfer knocked down a clutch 3 that gave the Friars a 61-59 lead and left him 1 for 8 from the field.

It was the first 3-pointer since January for Durham, who is 20 for 96 (21%) from behind the arc this season.

“I would laugh at that, too,” Cooley said. “But you know what? He made it. And I trust him. He’s made some big shots for us the whole time.”

Cooley has called Durham his “closer” because of the lefty guard’s proficiency at the foul line – especially down the stretch. He began the week leading the Big East with 153 made free throws.

Minaya came up with another huge block at the other end flying off the weakside and Hodges missed a contested layup. Bynum hit a pair of free throws with 12.9 seconds to go before Hodges scored quickly on a drive.

Providence had trouble getting the ball inbounds cleanly, but Bynum finally secured it and passed to a wide-open Durham for a dunk at the buzzer.

Golden made four straight layups, two on smooth passes from Lukosius, to account for all the points in an 8-0 run that gave Butler a 51-45 lead with 9:13 to play.

“I just try to play with a will,” Golden said. “I knew this could be our last game. And I was just trying to give it everything I had for for the dudes that don’t get any college experience after this.”

There were 26 fouls – 15 on Butler – in a tightly called first half that ended tied at 31. The 6-foot-10, 260-pound Watson bullied the Bulldogs down low and went into the break with 15 points.

“Nate was a monster the whole night,” Cooley said.

BIG PICTURE

Butler: A disappointing season ended with a heartbreaking defeat for the Bulldogs, but they certainly were a tough out in New York. Butler led for more than 21 minutes in a game that featured 11 ties and 12 lead changes. Since joining the Big East in 2013-14, their only appearance in the tournament semifinals came in 2018.

“It’s hard to look at all those guys in the locker room and know we don’t get another practice and we don’t get another road trip together,” Jordan said.

Providence: A founding member of the league in 1979, the Friars are seeking their third Big East Tournament title (1994, 2014).

UP NEXT

Providence clinched the Big East regular-season crown with a 72-51 win over Creighton at home on Feb. 26 in their only meeting. The other one was canceled because of COVID-19 protocols.