BUFFALO, N.Y. — Noah Horchler scored 16 points and Providence had its best 3-point shooting performance of the season, routing 12th-seeded Richmond 79-51 on Saturday night to advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 25 years.
The fourth-seeded Friars (27-5) will face Kansas, the top seed in the Midwest Region, in Chicago next week.
Providence has made living this season on winning the close ones, 16 in all by single digits. The Friars talked this week about being well aware of their skeptics and motivated by being called the luckiest team in America.
The Big East regular-season champions looked like a juggernaut against Richmond.
Providence controlled the game from the start and went up 21 on the Spiders (24-13) less than two minutes into the second half when Horchler swished a 3 from the corner. The Friars shot 52% from the field, and a season-best 54.5% from 3. They came in shooting 34.3% from long range.
The Friars are past the first weekend of the tournament for the first time in six tries under 11th-year coach and Providence native Ed Cooley.
The Friars last advanced past the second round in 1997 when they reached the Elite Eight. The only other time was 1987 when they went to the Final Four under coach Rick Pitino.
Richmond crashed the tournament by winning four games in four days to take the Atlantic 10 championship as a sixth seed, and then upset Iowa in the first round.
Providence never gave the Spiders much hope to spring another surprise. The Friars scored the first seven points. They were getting open shots and knocking them down, and keeping Richmond’s Princeton offense out of the paint on the defensive end, something Iowa struggled to do.
The Friars’ lead reached 16 when Justin Minaya made a 3 from the wing with 9:17 left in the first half. When Horchler dropped in this his third 3-pointer of the half with 19 seconds left, it was 39-24 and Providence had made 8 of 15 from behind the arc.
Richmond’s iron man point guard Jacob Gilyard put up an air ball at the other end to finish the half 0 for 6 from the field. Gilyard, who had played every minute of the Spiders’ previous six games, finished his decorated six-year college career with four points.
Gilyard finally exited the game with 1:15 remaining, receiving a long hug from coach Chris Mooney. Fellow sixth-year senior Grant Golden (10 points and five rebounds) also was greeted with a warm embrace from his coach.
Cooley allowed some of his walk-ons to play the final minute. Before the regulars made their way to the bench for one last huddle, A.J. Reeves looked to the crowd of Friars fans in the stands, smiled and said: “Sweet 16. Sweet 16.”
Richmond: Nathan Cayo led the Spiders with 18 points on 9-of-11 shooting. The rest of the team was 12 for 42 (28.5%).
The Spiders have been to the regional semifinals twice before, including in 2011 under Mooney.
Providence: The Friars had shot over 50% from 3-point range in only one other game this season. They made 53.3% in a win over DePaul on Jan. 1.
Providence will play Kansas for the first time.