NEW YORK, N.Y. - The third time wasn't a charm for the Providence College Friars when they faced the sixth-ranked Connecticut Huskies in the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Tournament on Thursday afternoon. After losing a pair of regular season battles to the Huskies, the Friars hoped that the third meeting would be different.
With 5:24 left in the game, the Friars chances looked good as PC was tied 51-51. From there the Friars went ice cold scoring just four points in the eventual 64-55 loss.
BIG EAST Player of the Year Richard Hamilton led the Huskies with 22 points and 11 rebounds and BIG EAST Rookie of the Year Khalid El-Amin adde 14 points including a back breaking 11-foot running jumper off the glass that gave UConn a 57-53 lead with 2:29 left in the game. Richard Freeman also had 15 points for the Huskies.
Jamel Thomas led the Friars as he has all year with 17 points and six rebounds. Freshman Erron Maxey added 12 points and Justin Farley chipped in 12 with six rebounds in the loss. PC ends the season with a 13-16 overall record while UConn goes to 27-4 overall and a meeting with the winner of the Rutgers-Georgetown quarterfinal game.
The Friars were able to control the tempo in the first half and only a five minute freeze up by the Friars late in the half allowed the Huskies to make a 13-7 run and take a 26-21 lead after 20 minutes.
Both teams played tenacious defense as UConn shot 26.1% (6-23) in the first half and the Friars shot just 34.6% in the half.
Connnecticut got its lead as high as seven in the second half when the Friars made a 13-4 run to go ahead 43-42 at the 10:46 mark. Llewellyn Cole led the way with five points, Farley added four, Thomas two and Maxey two and the Friars had a one-point lead. After a UConn foul shot tied the game, Farley answered with a 17-foot jumper and Thomas hit two free throws to make it 47-44 Providence with 9:12 left in the game.
That was as close as PC would get to the upset win. El-Amin tied the game on a three-point play and the Huskies took over the boards. Maxey's slam dunk with 3:37 left made the score, 55-53, and the Friars would get no closer in the game.
For the game, the Friars were outrebounded, 44-31 and ended the game shooting 39.0% (23-59). PC held UConn to 19-51 (37.3%) shooting.
For Coach Pete Gillen and his Friars the season ends today and working for next year begins. "I'm very proud of this team," said Gillen in the post-game press conference. "We played as hard as we could and gave it everything we had. The effort was there, the courage was there, the heart was there, they were just a little bit too good. I can't ask them for anymore than they gave," concluded Gillen.
NOTES....The Friars finished the year with a 1-7 record against nationally ranked teams...Three of those games came against Connecticut...Jamel Thomas finished the season with 536 points and for his career has scored 1,310 points in 94 career games...He is 14th all-time in scoring with Billy Donovan raked 13th (1,328)....Thomas finished the season as one of two players in the BIG EAST to score in double figures in every game. He and Pat Garrity were the only two players to do that...Thomas has been in double figures in 29 straight games...PC was just 3-12 in games that they were outrebounded in and 10-4 in games they won the battle of the boards...Game marked first time since February 18th that PC scored less that 60 points...PC is 3-10 in games that the Friars scored less than 60 points...The Friars are 2-6 in games against #1 seeds in the BIG EAST Tournament...
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