Thursday, March 12, 2009


By Zach Smart

NEW YORK--The callow, sophomore-anchored ballclub looked as if they
could stage another Big East upset. We're talking a titanic, monumental
upset that would bury Providence's desire to dance this season.

DePaul--yes, that DePaul, the team that worked through the meat and
maximum of their conference slate and didn't come out with anything
other than an 0-18 quagmire--was giving the senior-led Providence
Friars the business before a lunch-time crowd at Madison Square

Yes, that Providence. The team who outlasted Syracuse and
blood-lettered Pittsburgh and talked all pre-season about their desire
for a first-ever NCAA tournament berth during their time as Friars.

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So, Jerry Wainwright's nucleus of neophytes--led by an aggressive,
swift scorer in Dar Tucker--gave the black-and-white clad fans some
early jitter bugs.

DePaul instigated a torrent of turnovers (the Friars committed seven
first-half turnovers before DePaul had committed one) and sealed off
7-foot Randall Hanke down low. They put the clamps on the Friars,
forcing Sharaud Curry into some errant passes and poor decisions.

DePaul buried the Friars with a barrage of three-pointers. Will Walker,
Tucker, and seldom-used forward Mario Stula (the Croatian had just
seven three-pointers leading up to the game but canned three pivotal
treys in 13 minutes).

They also featured Tucker, who finished with 30 points on 10-for-22
shooting. The low NBA prospect has the potential to be one of the top
players in the conference next season and showed it on the biggest
stage Wednesday.

DePaul had held a thin margin for much of the second half and another
upset appeared to be on its way.

Then, suddenly, the elder statesman on the court thwarted young
DePaul's momentum surge.

Jeff Xavier, Providence's 23-year-old senior, canned an open trey from
the corner, providing the Friars with a 64-62 lead with under five
minutes remaining.

Xavier's three was timely. It injected the life that Providence (7-6 in
their last 13 games) has been sorely lacking during such a high-stakes,
fate-determinant game. Early on, however, Providence was sleepwalking,
playing without passion, as if it was their game to lose.

The three-pointer triggered a vital 8-0 run capped by Geoff McDermott's
coast-to-coast layup. Wedged in between was a strong take to the rack
by Weyinmi Efejuku and a jumper from Curry.

Curry and Efejuku paced the Friars with 25 and 23, respectively. Will
Walker, who went 6-for-13 from downtown, led all scorers with 31

DePaul suffered a late-game drought, surrendering a head-spinning 15-1
spurt they were never able to recover from.

The last thing this team of young guns can do is put their heads down.
They came into this tournament with nothing to lose and scored a solid
upset, sending Cincinnati home packing.

Jerry Wainwright chose the path this young team is on. He opted not to
recruit any players on the junior college circuit and instead build for
the future.

The momentum-pendulum was swinging their way at full force when Keno
Davis picked up a technical with 8:32 remaining.

In a topsy-turvey game that was accompanied by a great March
atmosphere, the seniors staved off a good show by the sophomores.



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