Elite 8 Flashback: The Palm Sunday When God Had the Ball With 9 Seconds Left
I am a huge Providence College basketball fan and 18 years ago they played their last Elite 8 game on Palm Sunday. Actually, it gets better than that. Providence College, a Catholic (Dominican) school was playing on Palm Sunday against a secular state school – University of Arizona – and were being led by their star guard God Shammgod.
- 1965: The fourth ranked Friars were crushed by Bill Bradley’s Princeton team 109-69.
- 1973: The greatest Providence team ever (ranked 4th in the nation) steamrolled past heavily favored #8 Maryland 103-89.
- 1987: Rick Patino’s Cinderella team jumped all over #4 Georgetown 88–73.
The Friars 1997 tournament run was equally impressive. Routing Marquette (81-59) and then a dominating win over #8 Duke 81-59 to reach the Sweet 16 for the 5th time. Before the Duke game, Friars’ Coach Pete Gillen famously compared the two teams, “they have eight McDonald’s All Americans on their roster. We eat at McDonald’s for our pre-game meal.”
The Match Up
Once in the Sweet 16, Providence beat UT-Chattanooga to face 15th ranked Arizona which had upset #1 Kansas. Arizona was led by Miles Simon, Mike Bibby, Michael Dickerson and Jason Terry – all of whom went on to the NBA. Of the Friars starting five, only Derrick Brown would not make it to the NBA.
The Game: Salvation Was in God’s Hands
Things looked bleak for Providence when their star forward Austin Croshere fouled out with the team down by 12 points with 9 minutes to go. But the Friars’ swarming defense and aggressive rebounding brought them back. With thirty seconds left, Arizona was up 85-82 and driving to put the game away (video starting at 9:12) when a blocked shot set up a fast break that set up the game tying 3-pointer by Jamel Thomas.
As Arizona crossed half-court to go for the win, Derrick Brown stripped Jason Terry of the ball and dished it to God Shammgod who drove for a shot from the baseline with 9 seconds left. The shot went off the rim and the rebound was knocked out of bounds by Arizona with 3.9 seconds to go. Providence’s destiny was in God’s hands and he missed.
On the inbound, Providence got the ball to an open Corey Wright behind the three point line. Wright was an unlikely choice since he was 0-3 from the floor and only a 20 percent three-point shooter. Wright heaved a brick that grazed the rim. Overtime!
Arizona would outscore Providence 11-7 in overtime to advance to the Final Four where they beat #4 North Carolina and then #5 Kentucky en route to the National Championship. God and Thomas led the Friars with 23 points in the loss.
On the day commemorating Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, a Catholic school stood seconds away from basketball’s promised land and God came up short.
GAME FOOTAGE BEGINS AT 7:50.