PROVIDENCE, R.I. – In the lone tilt between top-25 ranked teams on Tuesday evening, the No. 16 Providence College Friars used a monstrous dunk by Ben Bentil on a gorgeous underhand feed from Kris Dunn with one second on the shot clock and two minutes left in the game, followed by a triple from Dunn after a Butler turnover to finish off a 71-68 win over the No. 18 Bulldogs.
Here are five takeaways from the Big East showdown.
5. DUNN STARTS SLOW, GETS HOT LATE:
Dunn, who FOX Sports play-by-play man Gus Johnson referred to as, “the best point-guard in the country” during Tuesday’s telecast, found himself in early foul trouble and couldn’t get much going for the Friars offensively. At the start of the second half Dunn, who averages nearly 18 points per game, had just three points to go along with three fouls. However, when it counted most, the Friars' star came through.
With 1:11 left and PC sporting a 68-66 lead, Dunn banked a 3-pointer from the top of the key that proved to be a dagger.
“We certainly had our chances against a good team and nearly pulled one out on the road, but couldn’t finish it off,” said Butler head coach Chris Holtmann. “Dunn is a terrific player and bottling him up is a challenge. He was in foul trouble, so that was part of the reason he was contained, but his biggest shot was that banked three. He’s done it to us twice.”
Dunn ended the game with nine points and seven assists in 31 minutes of action.
4. PC ENDS HOME SKID:
With its victory over Butler, Providence was able to avoid its first three-game home losing streak in four years. The Friars lost to Big East rivals Marquette (65-64 on Jan. 5) and Seton Hall (81-72 on Jan. 16) at the Dunk.
“I thought this was one of our biggest games on the schedule this year,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said. “This was a must-win for us in my opinion.”
Next up for the Friars is a trip to No. 4-ranked, Big East-leading Villanova on Saturday.
3. 3-POINT WOES CONTINUE FOR PROVIDENCE:In its last four games, Providence is an abysmal 18-for-88 from three-point range (the Friars were 5 of 22 on Tuesday). Even still, Cooley says he isn’t going to deter his players from tossing up triples.
“At the end of the day we’re playing to win,” Cooley said. “In order to be where you want to be in February and March, this is what happens now. Shoot them in January, rocket them off the glass. You have to give the guys confidence beyond belief. If we go 1 for 30, so be it. We won’t deviate from our plan. And those baskets that aren’t dropping now will drop in February and March.”
2. THE KILLER FOR BUTLER:
Starting the second half trailing by three points at 36-33, the Bulldogs got off to a scorching start. Leading 54-48 with 12:54 remaining, the Bulldogs suddenly went ice cold from the field and didn’t get their next basket until after Providence had already gone on a surge of its own. A layup by Rodney Bullock with 8:48 to go tied the game at 56.
The 8-0 run by the Friars electrified the home crowd and neither team led by more than four the rest of the way.
1. A WIN IS A WIN IS A WIN:
Though the Friars’ 42.1 percent shooting from the field left something to be desired, it was better than it’s been lately.
And, at the end of the day, in a difficult Big East conference that currently boasts four top-25 teams, Cooley was delighted to walk away with a “W” – his team’s second of the season over Butler.
“I thought that was a great Big East game,” Cooley said. “I think the crowd willed us to win. We’re still not shooting the ball the way we’d like too, but I think we’re moving the ball a little faster. It was a Big East war. I was proud of our guys’ fight. For them to stay focused and dialed in against a tough Butler team, kudos to our guys. That was a great team win and we need to stay locked in for a tough game coming up against Villanova.”