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NCAA BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

Pacific Has a Notion

Tigers come a long way and win their 16th consecutive game, knocking out Providence, 66-58, to earn a matchup with Kansas.

March 20, 2004|John Jeansonne | Newsday

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Without the benefit of binoculars, Pacific guard Miah Davis launched a long, long three-pointer as the clock wound down.

And the result -- all net -- was a seven-point lead over Providence with 1:32 left, leading to Friday night's 66-58 victory for 12th-seeded Pacific over No. 5 Providence.

Appropriate.

The entire theme of their first-round NCAA duel was distance. Here, in a regionally challenged sub-regional that will send one of its survivors to St. Louis and the other to East Rutherford, Pacific and Providence came from their respective coasts to meet in the middle.

Pacific traveled 1,786 miles. Providence, representing the other ocean, came from 1,400 miles away, only to have Pacific quickly put more distance between the two by repeatedly scoring from far, far away.

Pacific made four three-pointers in the first eight minutes, an unsettling trip from which Providence never recovered. "At the start they were attacking our zone pretty much at ease," Providence Coach Tim Welsh said. "They hit those four big threes; they were already on a 90-point pace. Then we tried to trap and they attacked that well. I kept thinking if we could just get even, we'd go back to the zone and trap and get them off balance, but we never could."

Providence, suffering a fourth consecutive loss and finishing the season at 20-9, led at 11-8 but, after a Pacific three-pointer by Tom Cockle, never again. Pacific, now 25-7 and on a 16-game winning streak, led by as many as nine, at 33-24 late in the first half and 63-54 with only a minute to play.

Junior Ryan Gomes, as has been true all season, continued to be the locomotive pulling the Providence train as he scored 25 points and took down 13 rebounds, both game highs. But his one-man show could only get Providence close on several occasions. Pacific, meanwhile, "played our game, which is to be unselfish," Davis said.

Along with Davis' 19 points, powerful French-born center Guillaume Yango had 18 and sharpshooting forward Tom Cockle had 11, plus six assists. "I thought we could've had bigger leads," Pacific Coach Bob Thomason said. "We had some open shots that we missed. But I kept looking up and we were ahead 2, 4, 6."

For Pacific, with enough of a basketball past to have been to five previous NCAA tournaments (most recently in 1997), the victory was not completely shocking.

"We weren't getting the hoopla," Cockle said, "but we were on a 15-game win streak. We knew we could do this. The most important thing is to believe in yourselves."

Kansas 78, Illinois Chicago 53 -- J.R. Giddens scored 17 points, including two crowd-pleasing dunks during a game-clinching run in the second half, as the Jayhawks, playing 40 miles from their campus, rolled into a matchup with Pacific.

Wayne Simien, the 6-foot-9 power forward who leads the Jayhawks (22-8) in scoring and rebounding, crashed to the floor with 6:32 left in the first half.

He was helped to the locker room but received a huge roar from the partisan Kansas crowd when he returned to start the second half. He finished 13 points and nine rebounds before going to the bench with most of the other Jayhawks starters with about five minutes left.

Cedrick Banks led Illinois Chicago (24-8) with 15 points.

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Associated Press contributed to this report.

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