By TOM CANAVAN
AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) – Even ripping his pants halfway through Big East Tournament championship game couldn’t spoil the feeling Providence coach Ed Cooley had about his team.
Sure it hurt for the fifth-seeded Friars to lose to second-seeded and No. 2 Villanova 76-66 in their third straight overtime game. That could not take away from what Providence accomplished at Madison Square Garden this week.
A team supposedly on the NCAA Tournament bubble, Providence knocked out fourth-seeded Creighton on Thursday, rallied from a 17-point second-half deficit to beat top-seeded and No. 3 Xavier on Friday and then overcame a 12-point second-half deficit against Nova and had a last-second shot at winning in regulation.
Senior guard Kyron Cartwright couldn’t make it after scoring 17 of his 19 points in the final 25 minutes. He was 6 of 7 from the field in the second half before missing the last-second shot.
“We just played two No. 1 seeds back to back in overtime,” Cooley said. “That told me my team matured at the right time. It told me my team is gritty. It told me our team is tough, resilient, passionate, really good leadership. I saw Kyron grow up more. I saw (Alpha) Diallo grow up. I saw Nate Watson grow up. I saw some guys come together at the right time and hopefully next week we can continue to play that way.”
The Friars almost certainly will hear their name called during Sunday’s NCAA selection show for the fifth straight year, and they will be a tough opponent for whoever they play.
Cooley laughed about his wardrobe malfunction.
“When I sat down, I felt the great breeze in the crack,” he said, drawing laughs. “My pants ripped.”
For the rest of the game, he walked around with a towel wrapped around the back of his suit pants. He showed up the post-game news conference wearing sweats.
“If you can’t enjoy this moment, win or lose, on that stage, on this day, Saturday night, you got a problem,” Cooley said. “So we all should be smiling, because we’re all very, very fortunate.”
Senior forward Jalen Lindsey said this week proved that the Friars can be competitive against anyone.
“I think in March we are picking up the intensity,” said Lindsey, who was limited to two points. “This is the biggest time of the year for college basketball. I think we are ready for the tournament and we are going to make some noise.”
Junior guard Isaiah Jackson said the Friars have worked hard to put themselves in position, overcoming injuries and illnesses.
“It’s not a shock to us, but it is a shock to everyone else for us to be in this position,” he said. “At the end of the day we just fell a little short.”
Jackson noticed Cooley’s problem with his pants but didn’t say anything because he was too focused on the game.
Diallo, who had 22 points and 10 rebounds, feels the Big East Tournament has the Friars battle-tested for the NCAAs. He said playing three straight overtime games did not take a toll on the team but acknowledged “it would have been a lot more fun if we won”
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