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Cats get UConn in semifinals

3/12/2004

NEW YORK (AP) -- Providence's late-season swoon is starting to
get serious.

The Friars, once No. 12 in the nation, dropped to No. 20 in the
rankings following home losses to Pittsburgh and Boston College at
the end of the season. They complicated things even more Thursday
night by losing 69-66 to Villanova in the quarterfinals of the Big
East tournament.

Randy Foye led a Villanova spurt of 11 straight points down the
stretch that pushed the Wildcats past the struggling Friars.
Villanova (16-15) became eligible for at least an NIT bid and next
faces Connecticut in Friday night's semifinals. UConn, ranked No. 9
and seeded No. 2 in the Big East, defeated Notre Dame 66-58 in
Thursday night's first game.

Providence (20-8) goes home with a week to straighten things out
before the NCAA tournament.

"We just never got comfortable on offense and then we let them
get comfortable," coach Tim Welsh said. "They had dunks and
layups on five or six straight possessions. You can't give up 61
percent in a half and expect to win.

"Defense has been our staple. The last three games, it's let us
down. That high percentage is really disturbing. We had a soft
interior defense. It's hard to understand. We've got to get better.
We've got a week to get better."

Welsh knew Villanova would be trouble following its last-second
win over Seton Hall.

"From the get-go, I could see Villanova had a hop in their
step," he said. "Sometimes one win can get you over the edge in
confidence."

Foye, who scored the winning basket against Seton Hall the night
before, ignited Villanova with five straight points after Donnie
McGrath's 3-pointer had given Providence (20-8) a 58-54 lead with
3:54 to play. Foye responded with a 3-pointer and another basket to
put Villanova back on top 59-58.

Then Curtis Sumpter scored his first basket of the game and Mike
Nardi followed with another 3-pointer before Foye completed the run
with a free throw.

Now Providence was down 65-58 and it was too late for the Friars
to recover. Villanova became the first team to come into the Big
East tournament with a losing record and win two games..

"We came here with two goals," Villanova coach Jay Wright
said. "We wanted to win two games so we could play in the NIT at
least, and to keep playing. This team likes to play."

Jason Fraser led Villanova with 17 points, while Allan Ray and
Foye had 15 apiece. Sheiku Kabba of Providence led all scorers with
24.