Xavier takes 10-game win streak to Providence (Jan 06, 2018)
Xavier senior guard J.P. Mercura knows there is more to winning the Big East than being 15-1 and ranked fifth in the country in early January.
"It's really important for us to take every practice the same, and work really hard and stick together," Macura said earlier this week, as his No. 5 Musketeers prepared for a two-game conference road trip that starts in Providence on Saturday.
"I think we took our foot off the gas a little bit two years ago and I think that this group is really going to push each other," Macura said. "And we're going to work together to try and make a run."
The Musketeers have won 10 straight games and equaled their best Big East start with three straight league wins. The No. 5 ranking equals the highest in program history. They are No. 4 in the coaches' poll, No. 2 in the national RPI and are two wins from matching the longest winning streak in the Chris Mack coaching era.
Tuesday night, Xavier defeated Butler, which was coming off an upset of then-No. 1 Villanova. After visiting Providence, the Musketeers move on to Philadelphia and a date with now-No. 3 Villanova.
This league never gets any easier.
Xavier was picked to finish third in the Big East preseason poll. Providence was picked fourth, but has suffered through injury and illness to lose five of their last nine games.
The Friars (10-6, 1-2 Big East) played without Rodney Bullock (stomach illness) and lost at home to Marquette earlier this week -- a 95-90 defeat as Markus Howard scored 52 points in Marquette's overtime win.
"Moving forward from that loss is difficult," said Providence coach Ed Cooley, "but that's what we need to do. That's life in the Big East."
Kyron Cartwright scored a career-high 29 points in that game for Providence but it wasn't enough.
Bullock, who leads Providence in scoring (16.9 points per game) and rebounding (6.7), will be back for Saturday's game but is listed as a reserve as the Friars look to snap a two-game losing streak against a very good team.
"I like their versatility and they're a great passing team," said Cooley. "I think they are a Final Four potential team. They're terrific."
The Friars, who are 0-6 against Xavier in Cincinnati, are 4-1 against the Musketeers in Providence. They are 3-5 against that program since Xavier joined the Big East.
This is the 18th time Providence has hosted a top-five team, and the Friars have gone 3-14 in the first 17.
All-America guard Trevon Bluiett moved into fifth place on Xavier's all-time scoring list in the win over Butler and has 1,902 career points heading into this game. He is averaging 19.8 points per game despite having to overcome a pair of injuries.
While Bluiett is third in the Big East in scoring, Cartwright (6.1) and Xavier's Quentin Goodin (5.7) are 1-2 in the conference in assists.
Bullock is 12th in the league in scoring and ninth in rebounding.