In an exciting regular season finale to what was probably the best matchup of the day for the Big East, the No. 21 Butler Bulldogs battled off a second half rally from Kris Dunn and the Providence Friars to seal a 68-64 victory on the road. Hot off a run that included back-to-back three's from Kellen Dunham and Alex Barlow, the Bulldogs led by as many as 16 with thirteen minutes left in the second half, but Dunn singlehandedly willed the Friars back into the game with a run that grew to 19-4 over seven minutes.
The final six minutes featured a high stakes, back-and-forth contest usually saved for the events of next week's Big East tournament before the Bulldogs finally pulled away for good behind a brilliant team performance at the free throw line (no, that's not a typo). We'll have plenty of coverage of what today's game meant for both teams coming leading up to the conference tourney, but for now, here's three things we learned.
1. Bulldogs exorcise their charity stripe demons
Following up an abysmal 10-of-22, 45 percent free throw performance that may have cost Butler the game in a loss to Georgetown on Tuesday, the Bulldogs flipped the script today, hitting all 20 of their attempts at the line. Perhaps most impressive was the perfect 8-of-8 stat line for redshirt junior Roosevelt Jones (16 points, three rebounds, three assists), whose jesus-take-the-wheel style of shooting has only let him connect on 59 percent of his gimme's this season. As they learned earlier in the week, free throws can make or a break a team in close games, and their success there today most definitely helped them put things away down the stretch.
2. Kris Dunn says "LaDontae who?"
To be clear, he didn't actually say that, but when the Friars trailed 46-30 in the second half, it was Dunn who able to right the ship during that huge Providence run. While Henton had just eight points on 2-of-10 shooting, Dunn ended up with 23 points, six assists, three rebounds and four steals while hitting a trio of threes on the day. It's no secret that Dunn is the top NBA talent in the Big East, and he proved that today while streaking to the hoop with ease, locking up Kellen Dunham on defense, knocking down shots from deep and taking over when it mattered for his team. In the end, the Friars came up short, but Dunn most definitely threw an interesting wrench into the Big East POY discussion by out-shining Henton today.
3. Big East tournament seedings locked in
While Creighton and Marquette still need to settle which team will be the nine and ten seeds, today's game finally gave some clarity to the race for second place in the Big East while locking in the top eight spots in next week's tournament. Providence could have locked up a first-round bye with a win today, but after Butler's victory and Georgetown's defeat of Seton Hall, the Hoyas ended up taking the second spot behind Villanova in the seeding. In the end, the Bulldogs will enter next week as the three seed, while the Friars sit just one spot below in fourth. For more information on the final seeding for the Big East tournament, you can read Robert O'Neill's post here.