Xavier came into the semifinals as the third ranked team in the nation and heavily favored to win. Providence, as a bubble team, needed this game for its NCAA Tournament resume.
The Friars (21-12) got what they needed, coming back from a 17-point deficit to force their second overtime in as many nights in the tournament, outscoring the Musketeers (28-5) 7-4 in the extra period, and taking a 75-72 win to advance to Saturday’s championship game against Villanova.
Xavier dominated the first half on both halves of the ball. Defensively, the Mountaineers did not let Providence get on any runs. Providence looked overmatched much of the half.
Xavier played hard defense and solid transition offense. Providence’s half court offense was no where to be seen in the first half. Xavier also contained Providence star Kyron Cartwright throughout the first half, keeping him scoreless from behind the arc.
Xavier’s domination continued into the second half, as the Musketeers expanded their 14-point halftime lead to 17. They looked poised to get a easy win, but Providence freshman Nate Watson had other plans, scoring 14 points from five-of-six shooting in the second half.
Cartwright was the bigger story after being a nonfactor in the first half, finishing the game with 15 points, hitting clutch shot after clutch shot down the stretch. Providence nailed six shots in a row.
Xavier’s Trevon Bluiett could never get it going, scoring 13 points, with eight of those from the line. He ended the game shooting just two of 14 from the field, and just one of seven from beyond the arc.
Providence’s second half push sent the game into overtime, the second such game for the Friars in as many nights. Xavier took the early lead, but Providence rallied, leading for the first time since the score was 5-4 in the first half. Cartwright took a key charge at the end of overtime that help Providence win the game.
The loss might cost Xavier its projected No. 1 in the NCAA Tournament.