Pacific's 16th straight victory bounces No. 5 seed Providence

12th-seeded Tigers end Friars' season, 66-58, their fourth loss in a row

Ncaa Tournament

March 20, 2004|By John Jeansonne | John Jeansonne,NEWSDAY

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Without the benefit of binoculars, Pacific guard Miah Davis launched a long, long three-pointer as the clock wound down.

And the result - all net - was a seven-point lead over Providence with 1:32 left, leading to last night's 66-58 victory for 12th-seeded Pacific over No. 5 Providence. Appropriate. The entire theme of their first-round NCAA duel was distance. Here, in a regionally challenged sub-regional that will send one of its survivors to St. Louis and the other to East Rutherford, Pacific and Providence came from their respective coasts to meet in the middle.

Pacific traveled 1,786 miles. The Friars, representing the other ocean, came from 1,400 miles away, only to have Pacific quickly put more distance between the two by repeatedly scoring from far, far away.

The Tigers hit four three-pointers in the first eight minutes, an unsettling trip from which Providence never recovered. They hit six of 14 for the game.

"At the start, they were attacking our zone pretty much at ease," Providence coach Tim Welsh said. "They hit those four big threes; they were already on a 90-point pace. Then we tried to trap and they attacked that well. I kept thinking if we could just get even, we'd go back to the zone and trap and get them off balance, but we never could."

Providence, suffering a fourth straight loss and finishing the season at 20-9, led at 11-8 but, after a Pacific three-pointer by Tom Cockle, never again. Pacific, 25-7 and on a 16-game winning streak, led by as many as nine, at 33-24 late in the first half and 63-54 with only a minute to play.

The last time Pacific opened the NCAA tournament with a victory, coach Bob Thomason was still two years away from joining the Tigers - as a player.

Before last night, Pacific had not won a first-round game in the NCAAs since 1967. But they provided the second upset by a No. 12 seed in as many days. On Thursday, 12th-seeded Manhattan stunned Florida, 75-60, in the East Rutherford Regional.

Thomason was a member of the Pacific team that beat Brigham Young in the 1971 tournament, but that was in a consolation game after a first-round loss. The Tigers also lost in the first round in 1979.

Junior Ryan Gomes, as has been true all season, continued to be the locomotive pulling the Providence train as he scored 25 points and took down 13 rebounds, both game highs. But his one-man show could only get Providence close on several occasions. Pacific, meanwhile, "played our game, which is to be unselfish," Davis said.

Providence had 15 turnovers - which the Tigers converted into 23 points - to 12 assists and shot 38 percent (23-for-61) from the floor. Both teams hit six threes - but the Friars took 26 shots from outside the arc, a dozen more than Pacific.

Along with Davis' 19 points, powerful French-born center Guillaume Yango had 18 and Cockle had 11, plus six assists.

"I thought we could've had bigger leads," Pacific coach Bob Thomason said. "We had some open shots that we missed. But I kept looking up and we were ahead 2, 4, 6."

For Pacific, with enough of a basketball past to have been to five previous NCAA tournaments (most recently in 1997), the victory was not completely shocking.

"We weren't getting the hoopla," Cockle said, "but we were on a 15-game win streak. We knew we could do this. The most important thing is to believe in yourselves."

Pacific led 37-33 at the break but had six turnovers and only eight points in almost nine minutes to start the second half.

"I'm not going to say the turnovers didn't bother me," Thomason said. "A one-turnover game will bother me - my guys will tell you that. But at times you just have to let it go."

Providence threatened to rattle Pacific's nerves at the end, closing to within 58-54 with 3:02 left, and Davis missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw. But Yango tipped the rebound back outside to Davis, who stood still, dribbling the shot clock down, before firing his lights-out three pointer.

"I drove the ball about five times in the game when the clock was running down," Davis said, "so I decided to try a three. Sometimes, in practice, those go down, and thank God it did that time."

Thomason said: "To me, there are no upsets. The team that wins that day is the best team. But I'm not taking credit for that shot Miah took."

Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

YESTERDAY

East Rutherford Regional

Memphis 59 South Carolina 43

Oklahoma State 75 Eastern Washington 56

Wisconsin 76 Richmond 64

Pittsburgh 53 Central Florida 44

Atlanta Regional

Illinois 72 Murray State 53

Cincinnati 80 East Tennessee State 77

Mississippi State 85 Monmouth 52

Xavier 80 Louisville 70

St. Louis Regional

Boston College 58 Utah 51

Georgia Tech 65 Northern Iowa 60

Kentucky 96 Florida A&M 76

Pacific 66 Providence 58

Alabama-Birmingham 102 Washington 100

Kansas 78 Illinois-Chicago 53

Phoenix Regional

N.C. State 61 Louisiana-Lafayette 52

Vanderbilt 71 Western Michigan 58

TODAY

East Rutherford Regional

Wake Forest Manhattan 3:40 p.m.* chs. 13, 9

Saint Joseph's Texas Tech 5:30 p.m.

Atlanta Regional

Duke Seton Hall 1:10 p.m. chs. 13, 9

Texas North Carolina 8:10 p.m.* chs. 13, 9

St. Louis Regional

Gonzaga Nevada 3:20 p.m.

Phoenix Regional

Maryland Syracuse 5:40 p.m. chs. 13, 9

Stanford Alabama 5:50 p.m.*

Connecticut DePaul 8 p.m.*

*-Approximate time

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