Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NEW YORK – Providence fought off DePaul’s second straight upset bid and remained alive for an NCAA Tournament berth.
The No. 8 Friars downed No. 16 DePaul 83-74 at Madison Square Garden behind Sharaud Curry’s 25 points, Weyinmi Efejuku’s 23 and Jeff Xavier’s 12.
“I think we’ve done enough that we’re going to be considered strongly [for the NCAAs],” Providence coach Keno Davis said. “I think we are squarely on the bubble. I know that playing Louisville tomorrow, win or lose I don’t think it hurts us if we lose.
Providence (19-12) will face No. 1 Louisville in the first Big East Tournament quarterfinal on Wednesday at noon. A No. 8 seed hasn’t beaten a No. 1 since Syracuse beat UConn in 2006.
Providence lost at Louisville 94-76 Feb. 18.
“It might take our best game to beat them but I know our guys are going to be striving to play their best game,” Davis said.
Had the Friars lost to DePaul — who went 0-18 through the Big East regular season but on Tuesday knocked off No. 9 Cincinnati — their chances of making the Big Dance would have almost certainly evaporated.
Providence has an RPI of 72 and a strength of schedule of 49 and are just 2-8 against the RPI Top 50. They own key wins over then-No. 15 Syracuse and then-No. 1 Pittsburgh, but also lost to Northeastern.
Will Walker led DePaul with 31 points, hitting three 3-pointers in the final 49 seconds, and Dar Tucker added 30. It was the first time in tournament history two players from the same team scored 30 points.
Down 61-55 midway through the second half, Providence used a 15-1 run to take a 70-62 lead.
Efejuku scored six points in the spurt and Geoff McDermott had four.
Xavier hit a clutch 3 from the right side to extend the lead to 75-65 with 1:10 remaining.
“I thought our guys got a little bit tired in the end,” DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright said. “But I couldn’t be prouder of how we played and how we attacked the tournament.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.