Providence 81

(10-12, 0-8 Big East)

(24) Villanova 89

(13-5, 5-4 Big East)

    7:30 PM ET, February 5, 2005

    The Pavilion (Villanova), Villanova, Pennsylvania

    1 2 T
    PROV 32 4981
    #24VILL 43 4689

    Top Performers

    Providence: R. Gomes 32 Pts, 8 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

    Villanova: C. Sumpter 24 Pts, 13 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 3 Blk

    Gomes's career-high 32 not enough for Friars

    VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) -- Curtis Sumpter cares more about keeping Villanova on track for the NCAA Tournament than the Wildcats (No. 25 ESPN/USA Today; No. 24 AP) maintaining their national ranking.

    "It's not a big thing for us," Sumpter said of the rankings. "We don't really look at that. It's more for the fans."

    Those fans -- former Wildcat Kerry Kittles among them -- had plenty to cheer Saturday night.

    Sumpter had 24 points and 13 rebounds, Allan Ray scored 20 and Randy Foye 19 to lead Villanova to an 89-81 win over Providence.

    It was another thrilling finish for the Wildcats (13-5, 5-4 Big East), who have won four of five and had their seventh conference game decided by less than 10 points.

    "I like the way our guys gutted it out," coach Jay Wright said.

    Providence (10-12, 0-8) stayed close until the Wildcats used a 14-4 run midway through the second half to get a double-digit cushion and hold off the pesky Friars.

    Ryan Gomes led Providence with a career-high 32 points on 10-for-22 shooting. He made three 3-pointers and all nine shots from the free throw line.

    Providence played its seventh ranked team this year and has the second toughest schedule in the RPI ratings.

    Villanova parlayed wins over Kansas and Notre Dame into its first national ranking since the 1996-97 season. The Wildcats' stay in the Top 25 could be brief because they lost to Connecticut on Wednesday.

    What really mattered to the Wildcats is returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999. Though Villanova is making a strong case for at least an at-large bid, nothing is certain with games left against Syracuse (Feb. 12), Pittsburgh (Feb. 20) and Boston College (Feb. 23).

    Providence sliced a 16-point deficit down to six, using 3-pointers from Tukka Kotti, Jeff Parmer and Gomes as part of the scoring spurt. Then the Wildcats took control.

    Kyle Lowry, Villanova's energetic reserve, was fouled and crashed hard on a driving layup, then converted the three-point play with a free throw. Sumpter followed with another three-point play after he was fouled on a breakaway dunk.

    Foye followed with a twisting layup off a long outlet pass off a defensive rebound and Lowry sank a couple of free throws for a 64-48 lead.

    Providence, though, never let the game get totally out reach. Donnie McGrath and Gomes hit consecutive 3s to cut Villanova's lead to 10. Two free throws by Gomes made it 77-73 with 1:50 left.

    "We have problems on the road with getting started a little bit," Providence coach Tim Welsh said. "Once we find our comfort zone, we can play. We did a lot of good things in the second half, but when it came down to crunch time, they made the close plays."

    With both teams out of timeouts at the 2:30 mark, only free throws slowed down the game.

    With Providence forced to foul, the Wildcats went 12-for-14 from the line to seal the win.

    "We would never overlook an opponent," Foye said. "Why would you do that?"

    The Wildcats made 36 of 44 free throws overall; Providence went 16-for-20.

    The close finish sure was familiar to Villanova.

    The Wildcats needed overtime to knock off the Friars last month, though that was hardly their biggest scare -- their plane back home was forced to make an emergency landing in snowy Rhode Island.

    Wright, who grew up in nearby Churchville, would love one Villanova footnote to end -- they're the last sports team to get a championship parade (1985) in downtown Philadelphia. He's rooting for the Eagles in Sunday's Super Bowl.

    "This is kind of a religious experience for Philadelphia people," he said.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 81 89
    FG Made-Attempted 28-67 (.418) 25-61 (.410)
    3P Made-Attempted 9-25 (.360) 3-18 (.167)
    FT Made-Attempted 16-20 (.800) 36-44 (.818)
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 28 (0/0) 18 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 3 16

    2004-05 Season

    Jan 11, 2005 VILL 83, @PROV 78Recap
    » Feb 5, 2005 @VILL 89, PROV 81Recap