Friars beat Butler, 65-56
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Tuesday night’s snowstorm almost cooled off a Providence team riding a three-game win streak in the Big East.
But the snow outside and Butler’s dogged style inside the Dunkin Donuts Center wasn’t quite enough to do the job. Using a 16-point second half from the reigning Player of the Week in the conference, Bryce Cotton…and a dominating performance off of the backboards from Kadeem Batts, the Friars held off a tough Bulldog team 65-56 in front of a crowd of 2022.
A sluggish start set the tone for most of the night, as Butler opened up a 16-10 lead with 10:24 to play in the first half with 6-6 Kellen Dunham (17 points, six rebounds) leading the way. Two early threes by Dunham had the Friars back on their heels defensively, but they also served to kick-start their own efforts. A 15-2 PC run followed, as Tyler Harris (12 points, five rebounds) and Josh Fortune (seven points) hit from the outside. Cotton didn’t score a single point until he punctuated the run with a lay-up to give Providence a 25-18 lead with 3:23 to play in the half. Batts didn’t score until late in the half, either. He saved the best part of his game for later.
With a 29-26 lead at the half, Butler’s Khyle Marshall scored inside to narrow it to a one point game in the opening minute of the second half…but that’s as close as the Bulldogs would get the rest of the night. Cotton became more aggressive on the offensive end, looking for his shot, while Batts recovered from a 1-for-7 start from the floor to own the backboards. Butler (11-8, 1-6 Big East) kept things close, and pulled back within two on a Dunham jumper with 8:00 remaining…when the Friars finally found their groove.
Batts hit a jump shot from the top of the key to start a run, followed by consecutive three’s from Fortune, LaDontae Henton (12 points, six rebounds) and Cotton to open up a double-digit lead for the first time at 59-49. Batts (14 points, career-best 17 rebounds) followed with yet another jump shot to give Providence its largest lead of the night with 4:07 to play. Still, the Bulldogs had some bite.
A layup from Portsmouth’s Andrew Chrabascz (eight points) with 1:25 left got Butler back within five points at 61-56, and for a team that’s played six overtime games this year already, the thought of #7 must have been in the back of their heads. Free throws, however, from the #1 free-throw shooting team in the country helped put the game on ice at the Dunk…and send the fans who braved the weather on their way home happy enough to tackle the ice and snow on the streets.
Providence improves to 14-5 on the season overall, 4-2 in the Big East with their 4th straight league win…good enough for 4th right now in the conference standings. PC is one game behind the leaders Villanova, Creighton and Xavier, all with one conference loss…even though the game featured the Big East’s rebounding leader in Butler’s Kameron Woods (9.9 per game), it was Batts who had the monster night on the backboards with his career-best 17 caroms (7 on the offensive end), to go along with 14 points. The effort topped his mark of 13 boards against UConn in February of 2012…the double-double was Batts’ fifth of the season, and the 13th of his career…PC outrebounded Butler 37-22 and outshot the Bulldogs 46%-43% from the floor…the Friars hit 5-of-11 threes (45%) and 14-of-16 (88%) from the line…Cotton led all scorers with 18 points, after scoring just two in the first half, and taking only three shots…Dunham is the #3 scorer in the Big East behind Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Cotton at 18.4 per game, and had 14 at halftime…but could muster only three in the second half as the Friar defensive effort tightened up on his play…Marshall added 15 points to Dunham’s 17 point effort, but they were the only two to hit double figures…where the Friars have had trouble recently is defending in the paint, but they managed to outscore BU 32-24 in the lane, with 16 of their 23 made shots coming from in close…the game was the first-ever meeting between the two schools. Butler had three returning starters from a 27-win team in the Atlantic-10 last season that reached the 3rd round of the NCAA Tournament, but lost their leading returning scorer in Roosevelt Jones during the summer to a wrist injury. He will apply for a medical redshirt…the Friars will host Xavier Saturday at Noon (11:45 am pre-game on 103.7 and friars.com), with a halftime ceremony honoring former PC greats Kevin Stacom, Joe Hassett and Tracy Lis. Their jerseys will hang from the rafters of their respective home courts as part of the Friar Legends Forever Tradition. There will be a dinner to honor all three Saturday night at the Omni in Providence at 6:00 pm, and it is open to the public. For dinner ticket information, call (401) 865-1756…
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