7:00 PM ET, March 6, 2008
Dunkin Donuts Center, Providence, Rhode Island
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- Even though quite a few Providence fans rushed the court after the Friars beat Connecticut 85-76 on Thursday night, there wasn't a whole lot of celebrating among the players.The Friars kept alive their chances of qualifying for the Big East tournament with their second win of the season over the Huskies (No. 14 ESPN/USA Today, No. 13 AP), who had already clinched a first-round bye and were trying to finish second."Everybody's playing for something different," Providence coach Tim Welsh said. "You can't get too happy because you can get very sad very quickly in this league."Weyinmi Efejuku scored 25 points and Jeff Xavier added 21 for the Friars (15-14, 6-11), who are tied with DePaul for the 12th and final playoff spot in the 16-team conference. Providence closes its regular season at home against Villanova on Saturday, while DePaul is at Pittsburgh on Sunday. Providence holds the tiebreakers, so a win Saturday and the Friars are in."We're realizing if we don't play well it'll be two out of three years not going to New York," Efejuku said, referring to the tournament which starts next week at Madison Square Garden. "We don't want to go out like that."Stanley Robinson and Hasheem Thabeet both had 16 points to lead Connecticut (23-7, 12-5), which closes the regular season Saturday at home against Cincinnati.Thabeet had 13 rebounds as the Huskies finished with a 44-30 advantage on the boards. The Huskies were hurt by a season-high 21 turnovers, eight above their season average, that they allowed their second-most points in a game this season and that they shot 39.4 percent from the field (26-for-66), including 5-for-23 from 3-point range."This was a very disappointing performance, the most selfish performance in 14 games," Huskies coach Jim Calhoun said. "We didn't play like a team that won 12 of its last 13 games. We played more like a team that had lost 12 of its last 13 games. There was no individual defense but most importantly there was no collective team defense."Providence played like a team with a lot more at stake.The Friars took the lead for good at 50-48 on a jumper by Geoff McDermott with 9:44 to play. They took advantage of Connecticut's struggles from the field to lead the rest of the way.As the Huskies scored almost exclusively from the free throw line -- they had one field goal in a 9-minute stretch of the second half -- Efejuku and Xavier combined for 12 of Providence's final 19 points.The two clicked on an alley-oop play -- Efejuku laid in the pass from Xavier -- with 1:42 left that gave the Friars a 73-64 lead and had the crowd standing the rest of the way.It was Providence's second straight win after a five-game losing streak."We had a lot of talks and we tried to have renewed energy, renewed focus," Welsh said. "We were treading for a long period of time and we found a way out of it."Connecticut won 10 straight and then the 12 of 13 since losing 77-65 to Providence at home on Jan. 17. In that game, the Friars had 14 3-pointers, twice what they made in 20 attempts from behind the arc in the rematch. Xavier and Efejuku both had three 3s Thursday."Today we were a little bit lousy and they took advantage of that," Thabeet said.Welsh credited his team for a "lot of intensity, heart and toughness."Calhoun expressed the opposite about his team."From the opening get-go we never could get focused on the game," he said. "That hasn't happened to us in a long, long time."
Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||26-66 (.394)||31-64 (.484)|
|3P Made-Attempted||5-23 (.217)||7-20 (.350)|
|FT Made-Attempted||19-22 (.864)||16-18 (.889)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||15 (0/0)||20 (0/0)|