NICEVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Rodney Bullock scored 18 points and Emmitt Holt added 16 to lead Providence to a come-from-behind 60-51 victory over Memphis on Friday night in the semifinals of the Emerald Coast Classic.
The Friars (4-1) play No. 7 Virginia, a 74-41 winner over Iowa, on Saturday in the title game after the two losing teams square off for third place.
Providence coach Ed Cooley was magnanimous in victory, recalling that his Memphis counterpart, Tubby Smith, has been a longtime mentor.
Smith is in his first year at Memphis.
“That team is going to be a very good basketball team,” Cooley said of Memphis. “We were just fortunate to get a couple breaks here and there.”
Memphis (4-1) went ahead by 12 points, the Tigers’ biggest lead of the game, with little more than four minutes left in the first half, led by Dedric Lawson’s nine points. Lawson finished the game with 19 to lead all scorers.
Neither team could get much going offensively in the second half, but Providence eventually took its first lead midway through the period, 37-36, on a dunk by Kalif Young. The Friars expanded their advantage to 49-41 but Memphis twice closed the gap to four points before Providence shut the door with a game-ending 7-2 run.
Memphis: The Tigers opened the season undefeated against a relatively soft schedule, but they took a step back with the loss to Providence. Things will continue to stay tough in the Emerald Coast’s consolation game. The upcoming slate includes 5-1 Mississippi and 4-1 Oklahoma but no other currently ranked teams before the Tigers settle into American Athletic Conference play.
Providence: With only a five-point loss to Ohio State to mar their record, the Friars scored their most impressive win so far by beating previously undefeated Memphis, and they will get another big challenge on Saturday. It will be their best chance at gaining national attention before embarking on their always challenging Big East schedule.
Memphis: The Tigers face Iowa in the tournament’s consolation game at Northwest Florida State College.
Providence: The Friars meet Virginia on Saturday for the tournament championship.
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