PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP)With 10 seconds left and the last Providence rally turned back, Xavier star Souley Boum made one of his few mistakes of the night.
Dribbling out the clock along the sideline, Boum slapped hands with coach Sean Miller.
That’s a no-no.
“I was just showing passion for the game,” Boum said after scoring a season-high 33 points to lead No. 19 Xavier to a 94-89 victory over No. 20 Providence on Wednesday night. “It was a great victory for us. (The referee) called a turnover, and now I know I won’t do that no more.”
Boum missed his career high by one point, and Colby Jones topped his by scoring 29 to help the Musketeers (22-8, 14-5 Big East) break a second-place tie with Providence (21-9, 13-6) and clinch the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament.
Ed Croswell had 17 points with 13 rebounds, and Bryce Hopkins also scored 17 for the Friars, who cut a 22-point first-half deficit to two in the second half. Down six in the final minute, Hopkins had his putback blocked by Jack Nunge, and Boum hit a pair of free throws to ice it.
Xavier led by nine when Boum made his sideline gaffe – just the eighth turnover of the night for the Musketeers.
“I feel like I’ve seen everything, but that’s on me,” Miller said. “I reached out and slapped his hand, right? So one of our eight turnovers was that right there? And that’s on the coach.”
Jones was 10 for 11 from the field, including 8 of 8 in the second half, and Boum went 11 for 19. The two combined for 62 points, eight assists and 16 rebounds and went 13 of 14 at the free throw line.
Miller rattled off the stats and said this wasn’t one of those nights when you credit the whole team.
“Sometimes you have to acknowledge that you won because of a player or two players. We won tonight because Souley Boum and Colby Jones were outstanding,” he said. “Souley Boum was as good as any guard in the country tonight. Colby was right there with him. In large part that’s why we won.”
The loss snapped a 17-game home winning streak for Providence. It was just the Friars’ second defeat at home in two seasons and the most points they’ve scored in a regulation loss during Ed Cooley’s dozen years as coach.
“When you lose, it stings,” Cooley said. “When you lose at home, I feel like somebody broke in. I feel like somebody came in, and took our toys from under the Christmas tree. I feel like somebody took our food. I feel like somebody broke our windows.
“I feel super down, when you’ve got this level of support in our community, and somebody comes in here and kicks our (tail), because we don’t guard. That’s what I’m down about. We’ve lost games. But when you lose at the crib, that’s rough, man.”
With one game remaining, Xavier has a one-game lead over Providence and controls the tiebreaker, having swept their two regular-season matchups. No. 6 Marquette has already clinched the top seed in the conference tournament, which begins Wednesday at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Providence made just two of its first 17 shots and trailed 29-13 with eight minutes left in the first half when Cooley picked up a technical foul after stomping out to the middle of the court to complain about a foul.
The Musketeers led 40-18 with six minutes left in the first, but then didn’t make a basket for the last 4:37 of the half. Providence closed with an 18-5 run to make it a nine-point margin at the break, then cut it to 55-53 with 15 minutes to play.
The Friars got within 66-62 in the second before Boum hit a 3-pointer and followed it with a pair of free throws. After PC’s Jared Bynum made a jumper, Jones drove for three straight layups to give the Musketeers a 13-point lead.
Xavier: Hosts Butler on Saturday to end the regular season.
Providence: Finishes the regular season Saturday against Seton Hall.
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