NEW YORK (AP) - Rick Pitino still roots for Providence, the team
he led to the Final Four more than 22 years ago. He likens the
program to his alma mater, and still considers it his first big
break in the coaching profession.
If the Friars were playing anybody else Thursday, Pitino surely
would have cringed.
Instead, he watched the Friars nearly match a Big East
tournament record with 26 turnovers, and his fifth-ranked
Louisville Cardinals eventually find their own offensive rhythm in
a sloppy 73-55 quarterfinal victory.
"We do a very good job of moving the ball and defending," said
Pitino, whose team advanced to play No. 10 Villanova in Friday's
Earl Clark had 24 points and 10 rebounds, and freshman center
Samardo Samuels added 22 points for the top seed and regular-season
conference champions, who've won eight straight and are trying to
show the NCAA selection committee that they're deserving of a No. 1
The Cardinals (26-5) have won 18 of their last 20 overall,
including five wins over ranked teams, highlighted by a 69-63
victory over then-No. 1 Pittsburgh. Their last loss was Feb. 12
against Notre Dame.
The Friars (19-13), meanwhile, are just hoping they get a look
on Selection Sunday.
"I'm kind of like everybody else. You listen to a lot of
predictions, but the one thing that those people who predict have
in common is they're not in the committee room," said first-year
coach Keno Davis, who led Drake to the NCAA tournament last season.
"When you talk about finishing in the top half of the Big East,
is that enough?" Davis added. "We'll see what happens. We'll have
our fingers crossed on Sunday and look forward to playing more
Davis had better hope the committee looks at the Friars' body of
work - including notable wins over Pittsburgh and Syracuse - and
not at their performance in this one.
Weyinmi Efejuku scored 17 to lead the way, but Providence's
ghastly turnover total was one shy of the tournament record set by
Georgetown in 2002. Efejuku committed five of them.
Senior forward Geoff McDermott had 11 points but committed seven
turnovers, and the team wound up shooting a dreadful 2-of-17 from
beyond the arc. Providence finished 33.9 percent from the field
overall against the nation's 22nd-best field goal percentage
"I think they're the most aggressive defense we've faced, and
consistently aggressive," Efejuku said. "Forty minutes, they're
in your face."
Guard Sharaud Curry, who hit five 3-pointers and scored 25
points in the Friars' win over DePaul on Wednesday, was held to six
points and was 1-of-6 beyond the arc.
Louisville had plenty of chances to blow the game open in the
first half, at one point holding Providence to one field goal over
nearly 9½ minutes. During that ragged stretch, the Friars committed
four straight turnovers, had one possession where they missed three
straight from under the basket and airballed an open 3-point
The Friars, who average 14 turnovers, coughed the ball up 15
times in the first half alone and fell behind 34-24 at the break.
For every laughable gaffe that the Friars made, though,
Louisville tried to match them.
Star forward Terrence Williams, a 41.9 percent 3-point shooter
in the conference, missed his only try in the first 20 minutes. He
also blew an open dunk on the Cardinals' second possession and
didn't score in the first half.
Once the Cardinals finally stopped throwing up 3-point tries -
they finished 3-of-19 for the game - and began looking inside, they
methodically pulled away.
Leading 43-36 with about 13 minutes left, veteran guard Edgar
Sosa curled in a jumper that started a 10-2 run, and Williams made
his first basket with just over 9 minutes left to give Louisville
its first comfortable lead.
The smaller Friars couldn't keep up with Louisville's
athleticism, giving up a fast-break basket seemingly every time
they threatened to close the gap over the last 10 minutes.
When they managed to slow the game into the half court, the
240-pound Samuels went to work inside. His emphatic jam with about
1:30 left put the signature on his best game since the second of
his career, when he scored 24 points against South Alabama.
"He was good," Pitino said. "I don't think he did anything
spectacular. I think he just stayed within the framework of
teamwork and got a lot of good shots."