With the win, Providence improves to 15-11 overall and 5-8 in the Big East, while Butler, losers of 3 of their last 4, drops to 19-6 overall and 8-5 in league play. Butler entered the game with a RPI of 8, making this PC’s best win, RPI-wise, of the season.
Icy temperatures blew outside the Dunk, remnants of the large snowstorm that blanketed the state on Thursday, and those cold tidings seemed to invade the building and affect the shooting of both teams during the first half. It took three minutes for the Friars to crack the scoreboard and the second hoop wouldn’t come until 10:39 remained in the half. Yet, even with that offensive ineptitude, PC trailed by just 8-6 when it did come.
That’s because Butler was every bit as cold. Throughout the first half, if you ignored the scoreboard and just watched the play on the floor, it was easy to imagine Providence in a deep hole. Yet, Butler’s lead never topped 5 points, as the Bulldogs struggled to find their own game. Both defenses played well; both offenses played in quicksand. Late in the half, two three-pointers by Isaiah Jackson pulled PC into a 23-all tie before Kethan Savage scored on a layup at the buzzer to give the Bulldogs a 25-23 halftime lead.
Cartwright to the rescue
The offensive malaise continued into the second half, and Butler took advantage by finding 6’10 sophomore Nate Fowler, who drilled three three-pointers to help Butler open a 47-41 lead with 9:34 to play. By that time, the Bulldogs had begun to heat up and had opened the half by hitting 8-13.
Kyron Cartwright responded with a three-pointer and on two straight possessions, proved unstoppable on drives to the basket, resulting in the point guard’s three out of four free throws and a 47-47 deadlock. After a Andrew Chrabascz short hook, Cartwright nailed another three for a 53-51 lead and the Friars would never relinquish that lead. Jackson’s layup finished off a 14-4 run with 6 minutes to play.
Nursing the lead
One of the areas where Providence has clearly struggled this season has been in closing out games. Against DePaul, St. John’s, Seton Hall, just to name a few, PC has held late leads but been unable to finish off their opponents.
Butler was clearly not going away and a Chrabascz layup trimmed the lead to 61-60 but Alpha Diallo responded with move down low for a layup and Emmitt Holt raced away for a slam and a 65-60 edge with 38 ticks left. After an open three point corner miss by Kelan Martin, Jalen Lindsey knocked down a free throw and Chris Holtmann followed the ref to half court and was tagged with a technical foul. Diallo swished both free throws and PC had sealed the win.
Two key plays
Close games are often marked by key plays that provide the difference between winning or losing. Two plays stood out for Ed Cooley in this Big East war. The first came with PC leading 57-56 with 4:22 on the clock after a Kamar Baldwin three pointer. Lindsey was fouled as he rebounded a missed Rodney Bullock three and proceeded to miss two free throws. On the second, Alpha Diallo snuck around Tyler Wideman, grabbed the rebound and flew in for a slam, extending the lead to three.
On the second, the Friars led 61-58 after a Diallo layup, when Butler went once again to Fowler, who had scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half and was proving unguardable for the Friars. As Fowler began to turn with the ball, Isaiah Jackson snuck in from behind and stripped the ball away with 3:16 to play.
“Those two plays were the defining moments in today’s game,” said Cooley. “In the past we weren’t getting those.”
Second half heatups
Shooting certainly heated up in the second half – for both teams. Providence had shot 32 percent in the first half, 56 percent in the second; while Butler had hit at 31 percent in the first and 52 percent in the second. Several players also enjoyed improved second halves. For Butler, Fowler, as mentioned, hit for 5-7 shots in the second stanza, while Chrabascz came alive with 9 of his 12.
For Providence, Diallo scored all 15 of his team-high points in the second and Holt had all 12 of his points. The Friars duo of Cartwright and Bullock combined for 8-28 shooting overall and finished with 14 and 12 points, respectively. “If you’d told me that those two would shoot 8-28, I’d have thought we’d be in trouble,” said Cooley.
But PC received plenty of supporting help. Diallo was a key here, as was Jackson (8 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals), and Lindsey with 9 points and 6 rebounds.
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Providence returns to action on Wednesday for a 6:30 p.m. home tip against Xavier. The Musketeers are currently ranked 24th but after losing on Saturday, figure to be unranked as they invade the Dunk, but with an RPI in the 20s, this is another great opportunity for Providence.