Butler brought its best defensive effort of the season and it paid dividends, with the Bulldogs picking up their first BIG EAST win after stifling the Providence Friars, holding them to just 41.3% and winning the turnover battle 12-10 en route to a 70-64 victory.
The first half was hotly contested, with Providence leading most of the way. Butler nabbed the lead on its last shot before the break, a Chuck Harris trey that put the Dawgs up 31-30. The Dawgs controlled the second half with Providence tying it up at one point but never taking the lead as Butler’s lead ultimately expanded to double digits. An Adam Breed three at the buzzer made the score closer than the game really was at the end.
Nate Watson scored 19, but Butler did a great job of keeping the rest of the Friars out of the lane, at times employing a zone defense to force Providence to shoot more jump shots. David Duke and A.J. Reeves combined to shoot just 7-26 and missed 12 of the 22 total triples missed by Ed Cooley’s squad.
On the Butler side of things, the Bulldogs used a balanced scoring attack, with JaKobe Coles’ 14 points leading the way. Butler missed plenty of jump shots as well, with Myles Tate and Jair Bolden combining to shoot just 6-23, but the paint scoring of Coles, Bryce Golden, and Bryce Nze made up for that; the big men combined for 35 points.
Despite Tate’s tough shooting night, he looked like a budding Aaron Thompson in the way he ran the offense. He had seven assists to just two turnovers and also pulled down eight rebounds to lead the Dawgs. Chuck Harris continued to show good things when he was on the floor; he was limited by foul trouble, but scored 10 on 4-7 shooting.
The Bulldogs’ next game is actually a rematch with Providence on December 30; the Friars will play DePaul on December 27, where they will look to bounce back offensively.
Providence: Outside shooting
The Friars aren’t known for their outside shooting this year and they haven’t typically been in past years either. However, they won’t win many games shooting like they did against the Bulldogs. Nate Watson did the expected, scoring an efficient 19 points on 12 shots, and the fact that his team only managed 45 additional points is concerning. Reeves and Jacob Bynum who both shot over 34% from beyond the arc last year are currently shooting 21.9% and 5%, respectively. If they can even raise those percentages to a respectable level, it will completely change the game for the Friars.
Butler: Turning the corner
After a three-game losing streak, the Bulldogs finally got their first win in almost a month. It was a solid win too, with Butler fighting back from an early deficit and controlling the rest of the game. The phenomenal freshmen develop more poise every game and while Butler doesn’t look like a threat to win the BIG EAST, it is starting to look like a team that will be competitive. Assuming Aaron Thompson can return and be healthy, his injury may be a blessing in disguise for the Bulldogs, who will have more depth than would have otherwise been possible.
Butler plays Providence on Wednesday, December 30 at 5:00 p.m. ET.
Providence plays DePaul on Sunday, December 27 at 4:30 p.m. ET.