Colby Jones was the hero when Xavier edged Providence last month.
Jones looks to again be a pivotal factor on Wednesday night when the two Big East programs get together for the rematch in Providence, R.I.
Jones drained the decisive 3-pointer with 0.1 seconds left on Jan. 10 to give the Musketeers a 74-73 home win. Xavier concluded the contest with an 8-0 burst to steal a win away from the Friars.
Jones enters the rematch as the Big East Freshman of the Week after averaging 16.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.0 steals in two games last week. He made 11 of 17 field-goal attempts, including 4 of 7 from 3-point range.
The performances were a sign that Jones is back. After hitting the clutch dagger to beat Providence, he missed the lone game the Musketeers played in a 34-day span due to a COVID-19 pause.
It was the second time Jones was sidelined due to COVID-19 protocols. He also missed the season’s first five games due to COVID-19 issues.
When Jones took the court against Connecticut on Feb. 13, he missed both field-goal attempts and had just five points.
But he quickly engineered a turnaround by scoring a season-best 20 points in a 93-84 road loss to St. John’s on Feb. 16. He followed up by producing 13 points and a season-high 11 rebounds in Sunday’s 63-51 home win over Butler.
“He plays like a veteran, he just does. He plays at his own pace,” Xavier coach Travis Steele said of Jones. “He’s as versatile as any player we’ve had at Xavier during my time. For a freshman to come in and do what he did and has been doing is really, really impressive especially with the interruptions he’s had as well.”
Zach Freemantle added 17 points against Butler for the Musketeers (12-4, 5-4 Big East). Freemantle leads Xavier in both scoring (16.5) and rebounding (8.8).
Providence (11-11, 7-9) has dropped four of its last six games after losing 73-61 to Connecticut on Feb. 16.
The Friars shot just 36.2 percent from the field as top two scorers David Duke (17.1 points per game) and Nate Watson (16.7) had subpar games. Duke had 11 points on 3-of-16 shooting and Watson tallied six on 3-of-9 shooting.
Duke, a junior, is 10 points away from reaching 1,000 for his career.
Providence’s only avenue into the NCAA Tournament is to win next month’s Big East tournament. Friars coach Ed Cooley is hoping not to be on the outside looking in on Selection Sunday.
“I feel we blew opportunities earlier (this season),” Cooley said. “That’s when you say something quick and move on, because we can’t control what happened in the past. We’ve got to try to deal with the present and try to control what we can in the future.”
Providence is just 8-11 all-time against Xavier but is a solid 6-2 in home matchups.
–Field Level Media