GAME NOTES: The suddenly hot Providence Friars will try to knock off the Xavier Musketeers when the two teams collide at the Dunkin' Donuts Center for a Big East Conference matchup on Saturday afternoon.
Xavier has also been playing well, with wins in back-to-back contests and 10 of the last 11 overall. The most recent victory came on the road against DePaul (84-74), pushing the Musketeers to 15-4 overall and a sterling 5-1 in league play. They will return home to host Seton Hall next.
Last time out, Providence toppled Butler in a 65-56 final in the second part of a three-game homestand, which concludes with this contest. The Friars are currently 14-5 overall and a solid 4-2 in their first six league tests, as well as 10-1 at home. They venture to Milwaukee to battle Marquette in their next outing.
There have only been three prior meetings between these teams, who are members of the same conference for the first time ever thanks to the adjustments made to the Big East. Xavier won two of the first three matchups.
Semaj Christon scored a game-high 27 points to lead Xavier past DePaul. The Musketeers shot 58.3 percent from the floor in the contest, while holding the Blue Demons to 42.1 percent. The shooting advantage for the Musketeers made up for a 21-11 difference in the turnover department.
Xavier consistently puts forth a strong effort on defense, allowing only 66.8 ppg on 41.6 percent shooting. At the other end, the Musketeers net 76.1 ppg, while ranking second in the Big East in field goal percentage (.479). Christon (16.9 ppg, 4 apg) is doing well as the team's top scoring option, connecting on 50.7 percent of his attempts from the field. Matt Stainbrook (10.8 ppg, 8.5 rpg) is a force on the interior and Justin Martin (10.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg) is a solid scoring option as well. Martin finished with 18 points and seven rebounds against DePaul.
Defense keyed Providence to victory against Butler. The Friars held the Bulldogs to 42.9 percent shooting, including a poor 4-of-13 performance from 3-point range. Kadeem Batts ate up the glass with 17 rebounds to go with 14 points, while Bryce Cotton finished with a game-high 18 points.
The Friars are another strong defensive team in the Big East, as they hold foes to just 66.5 ppg and 44.3 percent shooting. However, they are not very efficient at the offensive end, ranking 10th in field goal percentage (.417). Cotton (20.3 ppg, 5.8 apg) is second in the league in scoring, while proving to be an unselfish player as he paces the conference in assists. Batts (12.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg), LaDontate Henton (7.3 ppg) and Tyler Harris (13.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg) team up in the frontcourt, but the unit lacks depth, with Josh Fortune (6.5 ppg) the only other player on the roster netting more than four ppg.
Stainbrook and Martin will have their hands full dealing with the Friars up front and the duel between Christon and Cotton is another matchup to watch. In the end the Friars strong play at home will prove to be decisive.
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