CINCINNATI (AP) — Xavier trailed at halftime for the ninth time this season on Saturday night against Providence.
After losing the first eight, the Musketeers finally won one.
Tyrique Jones scored 14 points and hauled in 18 rebounds and Xavier took control of a tight game down the stretch to pull out a 64-58 Big East Conference win over the Providence.
“We've got this thing going in the locker room where we're saying we're unbreakable,” Jones said. “We stay in the moment. They're going to go on their run. We're going to go on our run.”
“We take every possession seriously,” said Paul Scruggs, who scored 13 points for the Muskateers, including two free throws with 27.5 seconds left to make it a two-possession game with a 63-58 lead, “Like he said — unbreakable. Nothing breaks our minds on the court. That's what we do.”
Before a raucous capacity crowd of 10,575 at Xavier's Cintas Center, Zach Freemantle added 11 points for Xavier (16-8, 5-6), which has won three straight games. KyKyTandy finished with 10 points, all in the second half for the Musketeers.
“That tells me they can handle a little adversity,” Xavier coach Travis Steele said. “The last two games, we got off to big starts. We got faced with a little adversity tonight, and I thought our guys responded.
You could hear it in their voices in the huddle, and you could hear it in their voices on the court defensively, even when things weren't going well on the offensive end.”
Nate Watson scored 16 points to lead Providence (13-11, 6-5), which had won its last two games. Alpha Diallo added 14 points and David Duke finished with 12 for the Friars.
“The last seven minutes of the game, I thought we weren't very disciplined,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said. "It was uncharacteristic of us with some of the shots we took. Give Xavier credit. They made some winning plays. Scruggs made a big 3. They got a big layup."
The game featured nine ties and 11 lead changes, the last on a Scruggs 3-pointer that gave Xavier a 52-49 lead with 7:46 left in the game. Neither team led by more than six points.
“That was a good, old-fashioned, grind-it-out Big East basketball game,” Steele said,
Jones scored in double figures and collected exactly 18 rebounds for the third consecutive game.
“What can I say,” Steele said. “He's phenomenal. He's been on an incredible tear lately. He's rebounding as well as anybody in the country.”
“When we see Tyrique like that, we know that the train is on the track and it's time to go,” Scruggs said.
Jones’s double-double was his Big East-leading 16th of the season. Jones went into the game ranked third in the nation in double-doubles.
Both teams wore throwback uniforms as part of the Big East’s 40th anniversary celebration. Xavier also paid tribute to the 1990 team, the first in the program to reach the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.
Zach Freemantle needed two tries with a mop handle before dislodging the ball after it nestled on top of the backboard following a missed Luwane Pipkins 3-point shot.
Providence: The Friars missed a chance to move into a tie with Villanova and Creighton for second place in the Big East, three games behind Seton Hall.
Xavier: The Musketeers shook off an overtime loss to Marquette in their last home game and improved to 3-3 at home in the Big East.
Providence: The Friars stay on the road, playing St. John’s on Wednesday.
Xavier: The Musketeers travel a couple of hours west to Butler on Wednesday.