Coming off a three-game losing skid, Butler came into Saturday’s match-up with a defensive intensity it has lacked for a couple of weeks. Providence neutralized the Bulldogs’ defense early on with three-point shooting and some stingy defense of its own. Four different Friars made at least one three-pointer in the first half, and Providence managed to hold the one-two punch of Kelan Martin and Kamar Baldwin to just 12 combined first-half points.
In the second half, Butler’s physicality began to take its toll and Providence went into an extended offensive funk. Providence made only three of its first 24 shots of the half. While Butler never really found a groove offensively, an eight-point spurt by Paul Jorgensen and some good free throw shooting gave Butler enough to build a commanding lead over the Friars.
With 3:00 left, Alpha Diallo put up a three that would have cut the lead to six, but it rimmed out. On the other end, Tyler Wideman snatched his own miss off the rim and dunked it home. After two free throws from Rodney Bullock, Kelan Martin hit a dagger three with 1:45 left, and the Bulldogs ended up winning by a final score of 69-54.
Kyron Cartwright and Jalen Lindsey noticeably struggled, combining to shoot 1-16 from the field. On the Butler side, Aaron Thompson shone with eight rebounds, two assists, two steals, and frustrating defense throughout the game.
Providence is heavily reliant on its perimeter players
With Cartwright and Lindsey struggling from the field, Providence didn’t know where to turn. Generally, Cartwright is able to slice through opposing defenses and create scoring opportunities for himself and others. With Aaron Thompson frustrating Cartwright, the Friars struggled to make plays on offense. Cartwright has to continue to find ways to distribute when he is struggling, but if Lindsey and others shoot poorly from outside, Providence will struggle to win regardless.
Butler’s problem defensively is inside
Maybe I’m late to the game on this, but during the Providence game it hit me - Butler struggles to guard teams with skilled post players. Butler has been able to have very effective defensive performances against teams like St John’s, Marquette, and Providence, but they have really struggled against teams like Xavier and Seton Hall who have solid offensive post players. Aaron Thompson, Kamar Baldwin, and crew proved on Saturday that they can lock down the perimeter. The question for Butler going forward is this: Can the Bulldogs figure out how to neutralize teams with players like Angel Delgado and Kerem Kanter?
Gritty, not pretty
“Gritty, not pretty,” is a mantra that LaVall Jordan brought with him to Butler this year. The motto has been printed on shirts and repeatedly shared on social media. At times, Butler has exemplified this idea, but sometimes the Bulldogs have been out-toughed, or have allowed offensive struggles to slow down their defense. Against Providence, Butler came in with a can’t lose attitude – and defended and rebounded in a way that made its offense basically unnecessary. Come postseason, Butler will need to play every single game with the same intensity.