GAME NOTES: The Butler Bulldogs will try to put an end to their five-game losing streak in their return home to Hinkle Fieldhouse on Sunday afternoon when they take on the Providence Friars in a Big East Conference showdown.
Providence had a golden opportunity to bolster its NCAA Tournament resume last Tuesday when it took nationally-ranked Villanova to double overtime, but it was ultimately outlasted, 82-79. The Friars are trending in the wrong direction as the regular season comes to a close with losses in four of their last five, but they are still a solid 17-10 overall and 7-7 in league action.
Butler's current losing streak has forced it to drop to 12-14 overall, and at 2-12 in the Big East, it places only better than DePaul in the conference standings. The Bulldogs most recently ventured on the road to play St. John's and were thoroughly outmatched on their way to a 77-52 setback.
In the first meeting this season back on Jan. 21 and the first-ever matchup in the all-time series between the new conference rivals, Providence got the best of Butler at home, 65-56.
The Friars brought plenty of theatrics to their latest game, including a game- tying 3-pointer with 21 seconds left in the first overtime by LaDonte Henton, but after six ties and 15 lead changes on the night, they could not overtake Villanova in the second extra session. Although they shot 9-of-19 from 3-point range and 20-fo-24 at the free-throw line, they only made 41 percent of their field goal tries overall and were hindered by a game-high 19 turnovers. Bryce Cotton finished with 22 points and flirted with a triple-double by posting nine assists and seven rebounds. Josh Fortune netted 16 points, while Kadeem Batts (21 points, 11 rebounds) and Tyler Harris (15 points, 12 rebounds) both tallied double-doubles.
On the season, Providence shoots a modest 41.7 percent from the field, but thanks to the nation's best free-throw percentage (.790) and a strong rebounding margin (+5.0), it is able to score 72.2 ppg, which is 4.1 ppg more than it allows on the other end of the court. Cotton ranks in the top-15 nationally in scoring with 21.3 ppg to go with 5.9 apg. Henton (13.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg), Batts (12.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg), Harris (12.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Fortune (7.4 ppg) round out a lineup that has started every game together.
Butler came out strong in its latest tilt, taking a three-point lead into intermission, but after shooting 48 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes, it regressed to a mere 20 percent shooting in the second stanza as it lost control and eventually fell on the wrong end of a 25-point final. Khyle Marshall paced the losing effort with 16 points and seven rebounds, while Kellen Dunham and Alex Barlow poured in 13 and 11 points, respectively.
The Bulldogs' offensive attack has been less than stellar this season, as they shoot only 42.8 percent from the field (including 32.5 percent from 3-point range) for 69.1 ppg, but the scoring effort has still been good enough to support a solid defense, which allows just 67.7 ppg. Dunham shoots only 38.6 percent from the field but he generates plenty of volume and knocks down 2.5 3-pointers per game to lead him to a team-best 16.6 ppg. Marshall pours in 14.7 ppg and is a much more efficient scorer than Dunham (.525 FG percentage). Kameron Woods is a mainstay in the paint with 8.0 ppg, 9.1 rpg and 1.0 bpg.
Providence's NCAA Tournament could be on the line in this one, as its resume likely can't take a hit against an inferior opponent. The Bulldogs will keep the matchup close throughout thanks to their home crowd, but the Friars' sense of urgency will kick in down the stretch.
Game Date and Time