Providence overcame a 19-point deficit to defeat Butler on the road.
The atmosphere was nothing short of amazing at Hinkle Fieldhouse while the first-place Friars were on upset watch all afternoon. Ed Cooley’s squad was already shorthanded with the absence of graduate transfer Al Durham. He is out with a sports hernia, but despite an impressive showing from Butler, Providence was able to steal their fourth-straight Big East road win.
Nate Watson got involved early with four quick points to start the game, and from there it looked like it would be Providence’s game to lose. But the Bulldogs responded with a 13-0 run which forced the Friars to play catch up all game long. Butler was doing whatever they wanted on offense, sealing defenders in the lanes which led to open layups. On the other end, they made it difficult for Providence to get the ball inside, forcing the Friars to settle for outside shots. The Bulldogs forced four first-half turnovers in a matter of ten minutes while limiting their own.
If you are a fan of college basketball, you know that each half tells a different story. Jared Bynum’s early second-half success allowed the Friars to chip into the Butler lead. As always, Bynum was working inside using his quickness to get past defenders; which set him up for some open outside shots. Noah Horchler started to heat up from behind the arc en route to his eighth double-double of the season. Regardless of what the Friars did offensively, Butler seemed to have an answer almost every time. The game was forced to overtime where neither team pulled away off the tip. After a nail-biting overtime period, Butler found themselves down by a point with twenty seconds left. Butler’s Jayden Taylor missed on an open three-pointer and the Providence bench rejoiced as their team completed the comeback.
For Butler, a lot of positives to take away from this one. Their interior defense was stifling and they were very impressive on the glass. Butler’s ability to convert from the charity stripe was masterful and they held the advantage over the Friars in that stage of the game. Butler is a better team than their record suggests; they can be dangerous at the Garden in the coming weeks.
Not pretty, but the Friars got it done in an uncomfortable fashion with Durham out of the lineup. Without him, Providence struggled greatly at the free-throw line converting on just 12 of their 24 attempts. The Friars, yet again, outscored their opponent in the second half which is impressive, but being a “second-half team” is not a sure-fire recipe to win in March. Providence remains in the first place and is still hungry for their first-ever Big East regular-season title. Each team resumes action this Wednesday.