Providence head coach Ed Cooley continues to be a thorn in Butler’s Big East success, having a career record of 12-4 against the Bulldogs since the new Big East’s inception in 2013 (and won 5 of 7 total matchups at Hinkle Fieldhouse).
It’s a tough pill to swallow for Bulldogs’ fans, as this year’s Friars’ squad isn’t an overly talented team but managed to defend Butler’s shooters, namely Sean McDermott and Jordan Tucker, at a high level and take away many of the easy looks that they’re accustomed to getting offensively.
As a result, McDermott was just 0-2 from the 3 point line, while Tucker was 1-4 in a very quiet showing for both shooters.
The Bulldogs did have some second half success in the low post as Bryce Golden had 12 points (4-7 FG) and 4 rebounds, while Bryce Nze had 12 points (5-6 FG) as well and 4 rebounds, but they seemed to go away late from this facet of their offense–electing to go with Kamar Baldwin late in crunch time scoring situations with mixed results.
Baldwin had only 2 first half points (0-5 FG) but managed to make an impact after halftime, finishing with 14 points (4-15 FG, 0-5 3 PT), 5 rebounds, and 5 assists.
However, without starting point guard Aaron Thompson, Baldwin was asked to not only bring the ball up against full-court pressure, but also initiate the offense–and he wasn’t able to focus purely on scoring.
It may have affected his legs a bit late in this one.
Additionally, Thompson’s loss also hurt the ability of outside shooters like McDermott and Tucker to get easy, clean looks, as his ability to get into the paint and force opposing defenses to collapse–only to kick to an open three point shooter is one of the staples of Butler’s offensive success.
Really enough can’t be said about Thompson’s loss to the Bulldogs right now, who’s battling a sore wrist. He’s an offensive catalyst as their floor general, and their best perimeter defender.
He means so much to this year’s squad.
In his absence, the Bulldogs shot just 1-14 (7.1%) from the 3 point line and turned the ball over a whopping 15 times. Butler’s only saving grace was that it got to the free throw line a rare 31 times, hitting 24 of its free throw attempts (77.4%).
Another peculiar happening (and instance where they could’ve used Thompson) is when Butler needed missed free throws late, yet couldn’t deny Friars point guard Luwane Pipkins (a 97.4% free throw shooter on the season) the ball late–as he received the ball on 3 possessions and hit all 6 free throws–effectively icing the game in the closing seconds for Providence.
It was a case where Butler needed another Friars’ free throw shooter to beat them, but didn’t double team Pipkins (with its inbounds defender) or effectively deny him the basketball–as he caught three critical inbounds passes with relative ease.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Dawgs, who will take on #8 Villanova (17-4, 7-2 Big East), who were upset by Creighton on Saturday, next starting 6:30 PM EST at Hinkle Fieldhouse (FS1).