BUFFALO, N.Y. (WPRI) — The Providence College Friars are headed to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a quarter-century.

On Saturday night, the Friars defeated the Richmond Spiders in Buffalo, 79-51.

They will next play the Kansas Jayhawks in Chicago on Friday, March 25.

The last time Providence made it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament was in 1997. That team, led by future first-round NBA draft pick Austin Croshere, reached the Elite Eight before they were eliminated by Arizona, who went on to win it all.

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On Friday, head coach Ed Cooley discussed how his players have been able to stay grounded and focused, despite the ever brightening spotlight on them.

“I’m proud to say this group, being mature as it is, did and has left their ego at the door for the better of the team,” Cooley said. “I think our team is much greater than its individual parts, and I think that’s why we are here.”

“Each game, each situation somebody different has stepped up, and it’s all about: Can we advance? Can we win?” he continued. “I think it’s a credit to the maturity of the group where they’re not making it about themselves, and that’s really hard in today’s society, because everybody wants to be selfish and this group has been the most unselfish group I’ve coached.”

Senior guard A.J. Reeves said he and his teammates have been fueled by the naysayers.

“Everybody doubted us. We went from one of the teams that was supposed to be upset the other day and now it’s like, “oh, you’re a 4-seed, you’re supposed to beat them,” Reeves said. “So we just take it as one game at a time, and the Sweet 16 is a very viable goal for us and this option for us, so we just want to play our hardest out there and get that W.”

12 Sports Director Morey Hershgordon will be in Chicago later this week for the Sweet 16, and don’t miss our one-on-one with Coach Cooley at 10:30 p.m. tonight on FOX Providence.

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