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In the zone

Providence outscores No. 14 Illinois 70-39 in game's final 32 1/2 minutes

Posted: Tuesday December 9, 2003 10:59PM; Updated: Wednesday December 10, 2003 1:31AM

NEW YORK (AP) -- Providence has been playing zone defense for years under coach Tim Welsh. The Friars never played as well as they did Tuesday night.

Ryan Gomes had 24 points and 12 rebounds, Donnie McGrath scored all 15 of his points in the second half and Providence used its 2-3 zone to beat No. 14 Illinois 70-51 in the opening game of the Jimmy V Classic.


"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, in his sixth season at Providence. "That might be the best we've played the zone since I've been here."

No. 6 Texas and No. 8 Arizona met 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 that shut down the backcourt of the Illini (4-2).

Providence, coming off a loss at Rhode Island, didn't score for the opening 71/2 minutes, falling behind 12-0. Despite getting within 12-11, the Friars were down six at halftime and it seemed like 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 51/2 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."

James Augustine had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Illini, while Roger Powell had 13 points. The starting backcourt of Deron Williams and Dee Brown entered with a combined scoring average of 32.0.

Brown had four points on 2-of-9 shooting, while Williams had three points on 1-for-8 shooting.

The Illini finished 2-for-15 from 3-point range compared to 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 second-half performance.

"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 Douhit 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.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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