After a three-game skid, the Butler Bulldogs (17-4, 5-3 Big East) appear to be back on track. They enter Saturday’s contest with back-to-back victories over Marquette and Georgetown.
Meanwhile, the Providence Friars (11-10, 4-4 Big East) are looking to break a three-game losing streak of their own. Providence has lost three-straight, including four of its last five games.
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Providence leads the all-time series, 11-4. The Friars had won three-straight over the Bulldogs, until Butler was able to win the previous matchup back on Jan. 10.
What to Watch For
There’s no denying Kamar Baldwin’s play since the start of Big East play. He’s been a catalyst for Butler’s season so far, but since beginning the conference slate, he’s been consistently among the top players in the Big East.
Even in games where he’s slow to start, he’s been able to elevate his play in the second half or in tight situations. Against Big East opponents, he’s averaging 19.5 points per game, a mark that is right behind Marquette’s Markus Howard and Seton Hall’s Myles Powell.
He had 17 points and eight boards the last time out against Providence, and he’ll be certainly at the top of the Friars’ scouting report.
Also keep an eye out for Sean McDermott, who seems to be heating back up from beyond the arc, after hitting a dry spell during the Bulldogs’ three-game losing streak. He’s coming off of a scorching hot 7-for-10 long-range shooting performance against Georgetown. Then there’s Jordan Tucker, who had a season-high 17 points in the win over Providence. Since then, he hasn’t been quite the same, but will he able to turn things around with a rematch against the Friars?
Leading Friars Seek Consistency
In Providence’s 64-60 loss to Villanova, Friar head coach Ed Cooley decided to bench the scoreless Alpha Diallo. Diallo, Providence’s leading scorer, struggled against the Wildcats in his 14 minutes of action, finishing with zero points and three turnovers. It was another quiet performance during this three-game skid that the Friars are going through. Providence will need a better showing from him, if it wants a chance to win. Maybe, he can possibly channel an outing that’s similar to his season-high 21-point game against Butler.
However, Diallo isn’t the only one looking to attain consistency on the court. While it’s encouraging that sophomore David Duke Jr. is hitting his stride this season, after struggling a bit last year, Duke has been up-and-down. He was on fire a couple of weeks ago against Creighton, when he finished with a career-high 36-point game.
Since then, he’s cooled off. He scored only nine points on 3-of-10 shooting in the following game against Seton Hall. On Saturday, he put together an 11-point, 10-rebound double-double against Villanova, but didn’t really have his shooting stroke. He shot just 4-of-16 on the floor in that loss.
Although a lack of consistency on the offensive end has been a team-wide issue, just a 45.8 effective field goal percentage (315th in the country), when the Friars’ go-to guys can’t get going, it doesn’t lead to a favorable result for them.
No Rest for the Weary
After a strong start to conference play, the Friars’ momentum has been halted by a recent stretch of losses. Providence did get a week in-between games to regroup, and it will need it, as the Friars prepare to take on another ranked opponent.
Saturday will be the Friars’ fifth game, over the last six, against a top 25-ranked Big East team. So far, the Friars haven’t been successful against these kinds of opponents, losing all four matchups ahead of their trip to Indianapolis.
The losing skid began with Butler, with the Bulldogs infiltrating the Dunkin Donuts Center and leaving with a 70-58 victory over Providence on Jan. 10. Providence will look to overcome the odds and even up the season series.