NCAA Basketball

No. 15 Providence faces St. John's, aims for sixth straight win

An ability to win close games is fueling Providence into national prominence as its position in the AP Top 25 poll rises.

After climbing two spots in the latest poll, the No. 15 Friars will seek their sixth straight win Tuesday night when they visit St. John's in New York.

Providence (18-2, 8-1 Big East) has been in the Top 25 since entering the poll at No. 22 on Dec. 20 following a 57-53 win at UConn. Six of their eight league wins have come by eight points or fewer.

Providence's past two wins have been squeakers over ranked foes Xavier and Marquette. The Friars shot a combined 39.8 percent (45-of-113) after shooting over 50 percent in each of the previous three games. Those wins also improved the Friars to 10-0 in games decided by single digits and 7-0 in games decided by five points or less.

Against Xavier on Wednesday, the Friars survived Nate Watson going scoreless and eked out a 65-62 road win on Jared Bynum's late 3-pointer.

On Sunday, Providence earned a 65-63 win over Marquette in a game that was pushed back a day due to a blizzard. Watson totaled 17 points and six rebounds and helped secure the win with a thunderous dunk and a free throw in the final minute.

"As a leader, it's how you respond to adversity, and I feel like I responded tonight," Watson said. "I didn't really get a lot of touches. But I got to do what I got to do to score the ball and help my other teammates score. I just hung my hat on doing the dirty work."

Watson's play helped the Friars hold a 22-1 edge in second-chance points and was similar to his performance Jan. 8 in Providence in an 83-73 win over St. John's. Watson totaled 22 and 11 rebounds and Providence outscored the Red Storm 48-35 in the second half and 30-18 over the final 10 minutes.

St. John's (11-8, 3-5) is unbeaten in its on-campus arena in Queens but also owns five losses in seven games since its last appearance there on Jan. 5, when it beat DePaul. The Red Storm have been held under 65 points in each of their past three defeats.

The Red Storm also are 0-3, with three double-digit losses, against ranked teams after enduring a 73-62 loss at then-No. 14 Villanova on Saturday. St. John's shot 39.7 percent from the field in that game and missed 17 of 21 3-point tries.

Most of St. John's success is tied to Julian Champagnie, who is averaging 18.9 points per game. Champagnie was held to 11 points on 5-of-19 shooting in the first meeting with Providence, then scored 69 points over his next three games.

On Saturday, he was held to nine points and shot 4-of-12, marking his third straight game under double figures.

"He's getting shots," St. John's coach Mike Anderson said of Champagnie. "I (have) got all the faith in him. It'll come to him. Obviously, we need that scoring punch he gives us."

--Field Level Media

Updated January 31, 2022

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