Friday, February 23

Providence basketball wins against Richmond, headed to Sweet 16

BUFFALO — There was nothing remotely lucky or tense about these 40 minutes of basketball for Providence College.

The Friars punched their first Sweet 16 ticket in 25 years with a master class against Richmond. Providence dished out a thumping on Saturday night at KeyBank Center, leading from start to finish.

This special season now includes a long-awaited March Madness breakthrough, as the Friars are off to the second weekend in the Midwest Region courtesy of a 79-51 smashing.

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Never in its previous 37 games at this event had Providence enjoyed such a blowout. The Friars dispatched West Virginia by a 91-67 count in their 1965 opener to spark an Elite Eight run. They now sit a lone victory from reaching that round for the fifth time.

“That was as well as we’ve played all year, and we picked the right time to do it,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said. “I think we clicked at every level.”

Providence never trailed in this one. The fifth-seeded Friars ripped off a 7-0 start and held a 16-point lead after just 10:43 of game time. Justin Minaya’s 3-pointer from the right wing gave Providence a 30-14 cushion, and the large traveling contingent behind the bench was on fire.

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“We have a lot of threats on this team on the offensive end and the defensive end,” Providence guard AJ Reeves said. “When we play like this, I think we’re the best team in the country.”

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The winners snapped out of what was a three-game shooting slump from deep. Their eight 3-pointers in the first half matched the 8-for-22 effort in Thursday’s 66-57 grind past South Dakota State. The Friars were a season-worst 3-for-24 while being eliminated from the Big East Tournament by Creighton, but this jolt of perimeter offense came at the ideal time.

“When Coach calls your number, be ready to shoot the ball,” Providence forward Noah Horchler said. “Shots were falling tonight and it felt great.”

Providence guard Al Durham looks for an opening against Richmond guard Jacob Gilyard during the first half of their second-round game in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

The knockout punch came right out of the locker room to open the second half. Providence (27-5) connected on its first four shots and continued to expand what was a 39-24 edge at the break. Horchler’s 3-pointer in front of his own bench pushed the lead to 21 points and Jared Bynum capped it at 30 on a 3-pointer with 7:38 to play.

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