Friars Fall in Billy The Kid's Return

Both Providence College coach Tim Welsh and University of Florida coach Billy Donovan appeared close to tears at various times Tuesday night at The Dunkin' Donuts Center. But it was for vastly different reasons.

Welsh, in retrospect, didn't know whether to cry his eyes out or pull out his well-coiffed hair as the Friars committed 22 turnovers that led to 40 Florida points. As a result, the 11th-ranked Gators beat the Friars, 87-77.

Donovan, meanwhile, was emotional because of a pre-game ceremony during which PC president, the Rev. Brian Shanley, and Welsh presented him with a 2-x-3-foot frame that contained photos of memorable moments during his illustrious career as a Friar. And to top it off, the crowd of 8,303 gave him a standing ovation which was reminiscent of the days when he led PC to the Final Four in 1987 under Rick Pitino.

"There's no question I got choked up," admitted Donovan. "I really want to thank Father Shanley and Timmy Welsh, and the administration and certainly the fans for the way they treated me coming back here. Sometimes when you're gone for 18 years, you don't get a chance to come back.

"It was emotional going out there before the game. I'm very appreciative of the way Providence has reached out to its alumni and the way they've made people feel very warm and welcome and special. I really appreciate what the fans did. It was a special moment for me because it wasn't necessary. It makes me proud that I graduated from here."

Welsh admitted that he was proud of the way his Friars didn't fade into oblivion and wind up losing by triple digits. But he only was proud to a point because Florida raced out to an 11-0 lead which put Providence in the unenviable position of having to rally against a Top 25 team.

"It was a strange game," said Welsh. "They blitzed us from the get-go and you wonder if you're gong to stay in the building with them, and then it gets out of hand - and then you come back. But there were too many mental and physical mistakes that you can't make against a team like that.

"They just keep coming at you at a high speed so that if you're out of position on defense or loose with the ball on offense, they're going to turn them into quick baskets."

As much as anything, the one play that infuriated Welsh came with three seconds left in the half. Providence had the ball for what should have been the last shot. But Joakim Noah stripped the ball from Weyimi Efejuku and that turnover led to a buzzer-beating trey by Taurean Green that gave Florida a 47-34 halftime lead.

"We've got the ball for the last shot," said Welsh. "Then, we turn it over. That was a little bit of a gut-wrencher for me. I had to re-group to put on any type of face that we had a chance to win, at halftime, because I was so upset.

"But when we started taking good shots and controlling the basketball a little bit better, we showed we could score. But we turned it over too many times in the first half. We dug that hole and you're always trying to dig back which is hard against a team like this because they're so good."

Sharaud Curry led PC (3-3) with 20 points while Donnie McGrath chipped in with 17. But McGrath didn't score his first basket (a trey as it turned out) until 56 seconds remained in the first half.

Geoff McDermott finished with 13 points while Green led Florida with 18.

The young Friars did display some of their potential when, after falling behind by 21 points (37-16) they went on an 18-3 run that sliced their deficit to 40-34. But Florida erupted for six points in the last 36 seconds.

Then, the Gators built second-half leads that reached as much as 20 points; and the final margin of victory, 10 points, was the closest Providence would get.

"We turned them over 24 times, which is good, but you almost wear yourself out trying to get back in the game," said Welsh. "We're keeping McDermott, Curry and Donnie on the floor pretty much the whole time. To play that way you've got to have more depth. We had to do what we had to do to get back and end up losing by 10.

"I like that we fought. Hopefully, we can build from that. But it's hard to be building when you're playing Top 10 teams. But you've got to take something out of it and the one thing our guys do is fight. Through the way they fight, hopefully we can execute better and think better. And once again I've got to keep my patience with them."

Indeed.

DOUBLE DRIBBLES: Florida upped its record to 9-0 which matched its best start to a season since 1951 …During the run in which the Gators increased their lead to 39-16, they buried four consecutive three-point shots … Welsh's frustration almost boiled over at a call by referee Jim Burr early in the first half … Burr, emphatically, gave Welsh a warning instead of pulling the trigger on a technical … Providence did hold Florida without a basket for the last six minutes and change, as all of the Gators remaining points came at the free throw line after they built a 79-59 lead.

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