For a consecutive night, the Big East Tournament and the Providence Friars treated fans to an overtime game.
Providence College (21-12) knocked off No. 3 Xavier University (28-5) in the semifinals of the tournament 75-72.
Sophomore guard Alpha Diallo and senior forward Rodney Bullock paved the way for the Friars with 17 points each. For the Musketeers, graduate student forward Kerem Kanter led the team with 18 points.
The Musketeers jumped out to an early 14-7 lead after sophomore guard Quentin Goodin had a steal and a driving dunk. Another steal and dunk by freshman guard Paul Scruggs forced Providence to call a timeout after trailing by eight with 11:48 left in the first half.
With 7:43 remaining until halftime, the Musketeers led 28-12. Providence started to claw its way back and go on a 10-4 run to be down 33-22.
At halftime, Xavier extended its lead to 14 as they led Providence 43-29. Scruggs led the way for the Musketeers with 13 points while also shooting 100 percent from every category in the first half. For the Friars, Bullock led the way with nine points and three rebounds.
Xavier maintained a double-digit lead throughout the first seven minutes of the second half until Diallo scored to pull the Friars within nine points.
The momentum shifted in Providence’s favor after a tough shot by senior guard Kyron Cartwright. With 8:06 remaining in the second half, Xavier had seven turnovers compared to Providence’s five. A quick basket by freshman center Nate Watson pulled the Friars within four with 7:41 remaining.
Driving down the lane, Cartwright had a dominating dunk to put the Friars down by a basket. A quick bucket by Bullock led to a tied game at 64 with 3:33 remaining.
The game stayed scoreless for over a minute until Bullock was fouled and made two free throws. With one minute left, Bullock stepped up to the free throw line and hammered home both shots. Cartwright sank another pair of free throws to tie the game up 68 with 12.3 seconds remaining. In the final seconds, Xavier failed to score, driving the game into overtime.
Diallo handed Providence the lead in overtime with a floater to lead 71-70. After a series of missed shots by the Musketeers, Cartwright drained a jumper to take a commanding three-point lead with 49 seconds to go. Xavier senior guard Trevon Bluiett made two free throws to trim the Friars’ lead to only one with 40 seconds remaining.
“When we came out at the start of the half, I had a conversation with Makai [Ashton-Langford] and I told him I needed him to help me,” Cartwright said. “Without him driving to the basket and making plays, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did at the end.”
Cartwright took a charge to give the ball back to Providence for the last possession. Diallo was fouled with 5.7 seconds left and drained both free throws to take a three-point lead. With the clock winding down, Kanter lofted a shot from behind the arc, but not before the shot clock expired, and the Friars upset Xavier in the final seconds.
“We talk about how hard these guys work,” head coach Ed Cooley said. “Along with the excitement that’s in this building and all of the skepticism when we launched the league and you know, god bless the Big East.”
The win puts Providence at 21-12 overall. The Friars will face off against the winner of Villanova University and Butler University in the championship game at 6:30 p.m. March 10.