INDIANAPOLIS — It’s been nearly two weeks since Butler faced an opponent on their home floor. The Bulldogs kicked off a stretch of three home games inside Hinke Fieldhouse by making up a four-point deficit late in the game to defeat Providence 75-72.
The win was some revenge, of sorts, as the Friars got the best of the Dawgs in their first match-up out east back in early January. It’s also a resurgence coming off a tough loss to top-ranked UConn earlier in the week.
“I told the guys after the game ‘I’ve been bragging about you because we haven’t had a game this season where we haven’t shown up’,”| said head coach Thad Matta. “They showed me they were winners because they finished the game.”
The Dawgs punched the Friars in the mouth in the first half, clicking on every point offensively on the heels of DJ Davis who hit two of Butler’s five three-pointers in the first half to jump out to a 34-25 lead.
Butler was also clicking on defense for the most part holding Providence to a dismal 28-percent from the field (15-percent in 3-pt shooting). But on offense, despite their lead, Bulter had an uncharacteristic 10 turnovers at that juncture. Matta said his team was “sloppy.”
Providence, who like Butler were sitting 6-6 and in the hunt for 5th in the Big East coming into the game, made an unexpected adjustment going into the second half by going small with their guard play, blitzing Butler’s defense with speed that Matta’s big line-up to start the half could not match.
The Friars rattled off a 13-5 scoring swing late in the first ten minutes of the second half to tie the game at 53-53. The Friars made their first six three-point shots, Corey Floyd, Jr. hit three in a row from behind the arc at one point.
Providence was 61-percent from deep in the whole second half.
“We weren’t real good defensively there. We were awful,” Matta said of the start of the second half. “They made us pay that way (by going small). I probably messed up staying big there. We were searching for answers.
The “chess match” as Matta described it was on from there as both sides kept throwing haymakers at each other with the lead changing hands to the Friars 9:01 left to play. With 4:01 left to play, Butler found themselves down seven 71-64, a precarious position that the Bulldogs have found themselves in before.
Davis put the team on his shoulders at that point.
“We never think we are out of it,” he said. “We’ve had a couple of games where we come out in the second half flat-footed and not as aggressive. We wanted to get back to that near the end of the game.”
Davis scored 12 of his game-high 20 points in the second half. He also had a team-leading 8 rebounds for the game. Pierre Brooks also came alive finishing with 12 points after having scored two in the first half.
Brooks and Jahmyl Telfort ignited the offense one last time leading the Bulldogs on an 11-1 run over the last four minutes, holding Providence to just that one meager point throughout. Butler also had just four turnovers in the last 19 minutes.
Telfort finished with 11 points and Posh Alexander had 10 points as well.
Brooks scored Butler’s final four points securing the 75-72 victory.
Though not a “Quad-1” win per se, a win over Providence is a “Quad-2” win which helps Butler’s case to stay in the conversation for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, considering they do not win the post-season tournament. The Bulldogs are in the conversation to secure a spot among the top 64 teams, according to most bracket experts.
As long as the Dawgs keep staying competitive, they control their destiny to make the big dance for the first time since 2018.
They have a chance to enhance those prospects when they welcome #7 Marquette to Hinkle Fieldhouse in three days. Butler defeated Marquette in Wisconsin in late December when they were ranked #12.
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Bulldogs Bolster Case For Big Dance In Win Over Providence was originally published on wibc.com
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