Friar Basketball

Physicality Will Win Out on Wednesday Night

Nate and Jones Xavier Athletics

When Providence and Xavier met in February Ed Cooley kept it pretty simple when discussing the keys to the game. Cooley said the game would be decided when the ball was in the air.

Regarded as the two most physical teams in the Big East, PC and Xavier battled to a virtual standstill on the glass, with Xavier holding a 34-33 advantage. The Musketeers pulled out a 64-58 victory over the Friars on Feb. 8 by holding Providence to three made field goals over the game’s final nine minutes.

The referees put their whistles away, as Nate Watson and Xavier’s rebounding force Tyrique Jones excelled when allowed to play their brand of rough and tumble basketball. Jones ripped down 18 rebounds that night — marking his third consecutive game with 18 boards — while Watson finished with a season high eight made field goals (8-13).

While Cooley said that game would be won when the ball was in the air, the first contest between these two clubs was marked by bodies hitting the floor. This was as physical a game as Providence has played all year, and in watching it there was a distinct feel that these two teams aren’t fond of each other (and make no mistake, there is legitimate bad blood between the two).

We saw the typically reserved Watson pounding his chest after an early dunk, while an animated Kalif Young went sprinting back to the huddle while yelling after a big play of his own in the first half.

Jones hollered, woofed, and brought an edge to Xavier’s side all night.

While the first matchup took place just three weeks ago, the makeup of the Friar lineup is drastically different. On that night, Luwane Pipkins sat for the first nine minutes of the game. Pipkins has averaged 20 points per game during Providence’s current four game winning streak, and has carried PC’s offense the past two times out — wins over Marquette and Villanova in which he combined to score 51 points.

What stood out in rewatching the first Xavier/Providence matchup was the problems Xavier’s length and physicality caused Pipkins and Maliek White. Pip hit two big 3-pointers in the second half, but Xavier contested everything beyond the 3-point arc well.

When Providence and Xavier meet on Wednesday night it will be a matchup of the two top teams at defending the 3-pointer in the Big East. Both schools are holding conference opponents under 30% from deep this season.

White and Pipkins combined to shoot 2-13 from long range in the first meeting, as PC relied heavily on Watson and Diallo on the interior for its offense.

Providence did get a big first half lift from David Duke, who knocked down consecutive 3-pointers to spark a 10-0 first half Friar run. On a night in which PC shot 4-23 from 3, Duke went 2-4 and used his height to shoot over Xavier defenders.

Here’s hoping this week’s rematch is officiated in a similar manner as the first contest. The refs put their whistles away to such an extent that the two teams blew through the under 16 minute timeout and didn’t see the stop clock under their were under 12 minutes to play in the first half. Watson eventually fouled out and Diallo picked up a pair of offensive fouls in the second half, but for the level of physicality the first time around the officials did not get in the way.


With a week to play in the regular season, both Providence and Xavier are fighting for their NCAA tournament lives, which means we should see another ultra-physical battle Wednesday night.

“The tougher team is going to win,” Xavier coach Travis Steele told the local press this week. “It’s going to be an all-out war.”

Xavier has the 12th best defensive team in the country, according to Ken Pomeroy, so Steele knows keeping Providence from second chance opportunities will likely be the difference the second time around, “Their best offense a lot of times is throwing it up there on the rim and going to get it,” Steele said. “If you can limit Providence to one shot, and one shot only, that’s a huge key to winning.”

One Comment

  1. Irish Spectre

    March 4, 2020 at 12:43 pm

    This tells me that the home court environment is a bigger advantage than normal; go Friars.

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