Feb 24, 2004
By TOM COYNE
AP Sports Writer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Notre Dame had no answer for No. 13 Providence's 2-3 zone defense.
The Irish couldn't penetrate it, they couldn't shoot over it and they couldn't pass into it. They simply couldn't beat it, which is why the Friars beat Notre Dame 73-59 Tuesday night.
"We just played good defense," said Donnie McGrath, who scored 16 points for Providence.
The Friars, who lead the Big East in scoring defense at 60.1 points, held the Irish without a basket for more than nine minutes in each half and to 32 percent shooting overall.
"We couldn't get into any kind of rhythm," Irish coach Mike Brey said. "You have to make a few more shots outside on that thing to loosen it up, like we did against Syracuse. We just couldn't do that tonight."
The Irish also couldn't stop Ryan Gomes, who scored 23 of his 25 points and grabbed nine of his 12 rebounds in the second half. Gomes said he took himself out of the game mentally in the first half after missing several shots and turning the ball over.
"When I went in at halftime, Coach and all the players told me to forget about the first half and come out and play in the second half," Gomes said. "I treated every possession like it was our last."
Gomes also hit a 3-pointer to start a decisive 14-2 run in the second half.
Providence coach Tim Welsh said he let the Friars know at halftime they had to play tougher.
"I called them out," he said. "They were just standing around. The guards weren't getting into the mix on the loose balls, but in the second half we came out with a different look."
The Friars, who were outrebounded 21-17 in the first half, had a 22-17 rebounding advantage in the second half.
"We played better defense, got to the offensive boards and got the win," said Rob Sanders, who added 17 points and eight rebounds for the Friars.
Providence (19-5, 10-3 Big East), which has won five straight, kept alive its hopes for winning a share of the league title. The Friars, seven games above .500 in Big East play for the first time, are a game behind first-place Pittsburgh with three games left.
They're at home March 2 against the Panthers.
"We have three games left and we knew we had to get this win on the road," Sanders said.
The loss hurts the hopes of Notre Dame (13-11, 7-7) for a fourth straight NCAA berth.
"We have to use the last three games to get ready for the Big East tournament. That's the only tournament I want to talk about right now," Brey said.
Chris Thomas led the Irish with 23 points and a career-high 11 rebounds. Chris Quinn added 13 points and Jordan Cornette, one of three Irish players to foul out, had 12.