NEW YORK (AP) -- Providence has been playing zone defense for
years under coach Tim Welsh. The Friars never played it as well as
they did Tuesday night.
Ryan Gomes had 24 points and 12 rebounds, and Donnie McGrath scored
all 15 of his points in the second half, as Providence used its 2-3
zone to beat No. 14 Illinois 70-51 in the opening game of the Jimmy
"We were active, we rotated and helped each other, just what
you're supposed to do in a zone," Welsh said.
And the zone did what it's supposed to do: It made it very
difficult for Illinois to score.
"We held Illinois to 30 percent shooting and 21 points in the
second half," said Welsh, who is in his sixth season at Providence.
"That might be the best we've played the zone since I've been
Arizona (No. 9 ESPN/USA Today, No. 8 AP) beat No. 6 Texas 91-83 in the second game of the doubleheader at Madison Square Garden.
The Friars (4-1) overcame a terrible start and a 30-24 halftime
deficit behind the offense of Gomes and McGrath and the
effectiveness of their 2-3 zone, which shut down the backcourt of the
Providence, coming off a loss at Rhode Island, didn't score for
the opening 7½ minutes, falling behind 12-0. Despite getting within
12-11, the Friars were down six at halftime, and it seemed as though it
could have been a lot worse.
"I just told them to start playing, that's all," Welsh said of
the poor start. "I told them at half we were only down six and we
just had to start playing."
Gomes and McGrath scored all the points in an 11-0 run that gave
Providence a 44-35 lead with 13:07 to play. Illinois couldn't get
good perimeter shots against the zone, and with McGrath starting to
hit from the outside and Gomes leading the way inside, the Friars
pulled away to the easy victory.
"We didn't seem to know how to attack the zone all night,"
first-year Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "We couldn't even get
open 3s, and there was nothing we could do to get going."
McGrath finished 5-for-7 from the field, including 4-for-5 from
3-point range, and had five assists. He hit three 3s in the opening
5½ minutes of the second half. Rob Sanders added 15 points and
eight rebounds for the Friars.
"I just went to the offensive glass a lot harder in the second
half," said Gomes, who had all eight of his offensive rebounds in
the second half. "We tried to be patient and wait for the shots to
fall, and Donnie's did."
Brown had four points on 2-of-9 shooting, and Williams had
three points on 1-for-8 shooting.
The Illini finished 2-for-15 from 3-point range compared with Providence's 7-for-16.
Illinois committed 22 turnovers, with Williams having nine.
"They outplayed us. They came ready to play, and we didn't,"
Williams said. "They were so active tonight and prevented us from
getting any easy shots."
Williams then showed how frustrated the Illini were with their
"I think we quit," he said. "That's not Illinois basketball.
They went from 13 to 20, and that can't happen."
Providence center Marcus Douthit had four points, six rebounds
and six blocked shots.
"You have to have a guy in the middle who makes the zone
effective, and Marcus was that tonight," Welsh said.