Courtside Observations: Big East quarterfinal- Providence 65 Butler 61

New York City- The first quarterfinal game in the Big East Tournament saw Butler facing top seed providence.

First five possessions saw Providence with a 7-3 lead. First two possessions were an inauspicious start for the Bulldogs- two missed free throws and a turnover.

Butler quickly regrouped, gained a lead they kept for most of the half. Bryce Nze was a matchup problem in the early going for Ed Cooley’s club. For most of the half Chuck Harris was the key player for Butler. Harris, (29 points against Xavier in round one) showing no ill effects of an overtime game less than 24 hours ago, carried his hot hand into this contest.

Nate Watson one on one in the low post is a handful. LaVall Jordan is zoning in an attempt at limiting Watson’s touches.

Justin Minaya buried a three at the four minute mark, allowing Providence to regain the lead. The Garden crowd, decidedly with PC fans in numbers, exploded.

Providence’s concern-letting a lower seed hang around. Allowing that gives them confidence and we now have twenty minutes (barring OT) to get this settled.

Possessions: 31

Offensive efficiency: Both teams with 89

Butler ‘won’ the first four minutes of the second half 8-7.

A Minaya tip-in allows the Friars to regain the lead at the 16 minute mark. Cooley waves his arms to the crowd imploring them to get loud. They listen and follow suit.

Defensive lapses (not getting back) allow Butler to regain the lead. The Bulldogs lead by four at the 12 minute mark.

With both teams zoning (Providence due to foul trouble) and no half or full court pressure implemented, it comes down to offensive execution. For providence, it goes beyond that as the Friars are constantly getting beat to loose balls. Hustle plays. At the eight minute media time out Butler leads 51-49.

Butler had chances to extend the lead but missed a few open shots in close. A Watson put back with just under five evens the game at 53.

Why do I sense overtime and around three trips to the monitor before this one is settled ?

Watson is willing Providence to win. Al Durham hit the shot from three putting Providence ahead by two with 39 seconds remaining. Butler misses from close range. Jared Bynum is fouled with 12 seconds left. He sinks both free throws and after Butler loses the ball on the ensuing possession, punctuates the victory with a slam dunk at the buzzer.

Possessions: 65

Offensive efficiency: Providence 100, Butler 94

Watson led the way with 26 points, 7 rebounds. Bynum added 16 for the Friars. Harris led Butler with 14, Bryce Golden added 13. Providence is now 25-4 while Butler finishes their season at 14-19.

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