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Friars, Wildcats triumph at Jimmy V Classic

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

Dec. 10, 2003
Tuesday's Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden turned out to be another special night. It was the ninth year of the event, which helps raise dollars to fight the dreaded disease of cancer.

Jimmy V would have been proud to see the performances of Providence and Arizona as they got to the winner's circle.
Jimmy Valvano's dream was to score the biggest upset of all. He coached a number of great upsets, like when his NC State squad beat Phi Slamma Jama and Houston in the 1983 national-championship game. He also led Iona to a Shock City win over Louisville at the Garden, the mecca of college basketball, back in 1980. That's right, Jimmy V's team beat the Doctors of Dunk the same year the Cardinals cut down the nets as national champions.

Tuesday night, Jimmy V would have been proud to see the performances of Providence and Arizona as they got to the winner's circle.


Providence fell behind 12-0 against Illinois, but coach Timmy Welsh's Friars never quit and came back for a big-time 70-51 win. Junior forward Ryan Gomes showed why is one of America's most underrated performers, recording a double-double (24 points, 12 rebounds) as he dominated inside and on the glass.

Sophomore guard Donnie McGrath provided a spark with his 3-pointers in the second half. Senior center Marcus Douthit gave the Friars a life with his shot-blocking in the lane.

Welsh feels this will be a big season for Providence. Connecticut, Syracuse and Pittsburgh are the teams to beat in the Big East, but the Friars sent a message loud and clear that people should recognize this team as a legitimate contender to make the NCAA field of 65.


Arizona posted as impressive a showing as I've seen all season in a 91-83 win over Texas. Yes, give Texas credit for never giving up, battling back from a 19-point deficit to make it a game in the closing minutes. Coach Rick Barnes' Longhorns will bounce back and learn from this loss.

Texas had played a Cupcake City schedule in beating Brown, Centenary, Sam Houston State and Wofford. Playing Arizona was more like a calculus exam, and it will help in the long term.

I was so impressed, again, with Arizona's quickness. The Wildcats get the ball up the court in a hurry, beating teams by getting good position, which leads to good shot selection and open opportunities.

Super sophomores Hassan Adams (at guard) and Andre Iguodala (at forward) simply willed the 'Cats to a big W (despite picking up two fouls each in the first half). Adams was fired up, and it showed as he scored 30 big points.

Point guard Mustafa Shakur is one of the premier diaper dandies in America -- he's a man when he has the rock in his hands. He doesn't take bad shots, he knows his strengths and weaknesses and understands how to play the game. Shakur and Duke's Luol Deng are the best freshmen I've seen this season.

Arizona's conditioning will be a key. Those kids could have played all night long, but depth is still a question. Kids love getting playing time, and the Wildcats have the athletes to run and play hard for 40 minutes each time out.

So it was a special evening at the Garden. Great athletes on the court, and a great cause, supporting cancer research. If you'd like to join the team to raise funds to fight the dreaded disease, please call 1-800-4-JIMMY-V.

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