February 17, 2016

Xavier's Trevon Bluiett and Jalen Reynolds have enjoyed recent success against Providence, and similar standout performances in this meeting might help each get back on track.

It would also help the Musketeers realign their Big East title hopes.

After up-and-down performances last week, No. 8 Xavier seeks its third straight victory over No. 23 Providence on Wednesday night in Cincinnati.

Xavier (22-3, 10-3) experienced split results last week after getting tabbed at No. 5 for the second time this season - the highest ranking in program history. The Musketeers fell 70-56 at Creighton on Feb. 9 before regrouping with Saturday's 74-57 victory at Butler.

Bluiett leads Xavier with an average of 15 points, but he combined for that number while shooting 31.8 percent last week. Reynolds played only eight minutes against the Bulldogs due to foul trouble and finished with six points and matched a season low with two rebounds.

Xavier earned the win anyway behind 25 points off the bench between J.P. Macura and Edmond Sumner and 12 more from Remy Abell, though past performances point to Bluiett and Reynolds as the offensive catalysts come Wednesday.

Each scored 15 points in a 75-68 win at Providence on Jan. 26 and finished with 19 apiece in last February's 78-69 home victory. Reynolds made 16 of 20 shots between the two games and has averaged 16 points and 10.3 rebounds in his last three against the Friars.

Xavier has taken three of five meetings against Providence since moving to the Big East in 2013-14, including both at Cintas Center where the Musketeers are 12-1. Another would keep them within striking distance of top-ranked Villanova, which is two games up in the Big East but still has to travel to Cincinnati on Feb. 24.

Xavier is 4-1 against the Top 25, while Providence has beaten four of the seven ranked opponents it has faced - including wins over then-No. 9 Butler and then-No. 4 Villanova.

But Providence (19-7, 7-6) will likely drop out of the Top 25 next week with a loss. The Friars snapped a three-game losing streak with Saturday's 75-72 win over the Hoyas, the only team they have beaten while going 2-4 since Jan. 26.

"You know what, rankings don't really mean anything," Xavier senior James Farr said. "We lost to Creighton, we lost to Georgetown. Those teams aren't ranked. I think a lot of people don't give enough teams in this conference credit to what they have."

An extended offensive slump led to Providence's Big East struggles as it made just 37 percent of its shots during a 4-6 stretch from Jan. 5-Feb. 10. The Friars shot better than 40 percent for the first time in four games to build a 26-point first-half lead against Georgetown before holding off a furious rally late.

''Our goal is to try and be a tournament team and this helps us get closer to that,'' coach Ed Cooley said. ''I think the magic number for Big East is nine or 10 wins. That's how competitive our league is.''

Ben Bentil finished with 16 points and nine rebounds to follow his 42-point, 12-board effort in a 96-91 double-overtime loss at Marquette on Feb. 10 - the Friars' second straight road loss after winning their first six. Rodney Bullock had 23 and Kris Dunn added 20.

Dunn has averaged 15.7 points, 8 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 4 steals in three games against Xavier, while Bentil has averaged 20.5 points in his last two.

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