Butler drops Big East opener, 81-73 to Providence
INDIANAPOLIS — No. 9 Butler spent the first 20 minutes Thursday playing like it has most of the season. Tough, stingy and opportunistic.
Then it all went away.
Rodney Bullock scored a career-high 25 points, Kris Dunn flirted with a triple-double and No. 12 Providence overcame an 11-point halftime deficit to stun the Bulldogs 81-73 in the Big East opener for both teams.
"We did not have a good approach coming out at halftime, and that was my fault," coach Chris Holtmann said. "I really felt we were not as aggressive or as alert as we needed to be coming out at halftime, and that’s on me."
Whatever the explanation, things did not go well for the Bulldogs (11-2).
Kelan Martin scored 20 points, and Roosevelt Jones finished with 19 points, six rebounds and four assists. But the Bulldogs were just 3 of 17 on 3-pointers, while the Friars (13-1) went 9 of 12 from beyond the arc in the second half.
It was enough to quiet a rare sellout crowd that showed up for only the second Top 15 matchup in Hinkle Fieldhouse history. But unlike that wild Saturday night in January 2013, when Jones’ buzzer-beating floater upset Gonzaga, the Bulldogs didn’t have it this time.
"They’ve got a lot of weapons on that end (offense) and they made it difficult for us in the second half," Jones said. "But we should have adjusted better to it."
Instead, Dunn turned the game by making the adjustments coach Ed Cooley wanted.
After struggling with foul trouble in the first half, Dunn made sure things were different in the second half.
The junior guard and preseason favorite as conference player of the year had 20 points, nine assists and seven rebounds as he chased his second triple-double of the month. The Friars have won seven straight and are off to their best start in 27 years.
"As long as we’ve got Kris Dunn here, we’re going to make sure he earns his scholarship because he’s not going to be here much longer," Cooley said, drawing laughter.
Bullock started the day 7 of 26 on 3s, but went 6 of 9 against Butler. He also had 10 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season.
Ben Bentil added 19 points and made the 3 that broke a 47-43 lead with 13:48 left, a lead the Friars didn’t give up the rest of the way.
"We just, collectively, all got it together," Dunn said, explaining the difference in the second half.
With Dunn in charge, the Friars went on an 18-3 spurt and took a 47-43 lead on Bentil’s 3, which gave Providence the momentum it needed to fend off Butler’s spurts.
After Butler tied it at 59, Providence broke the tie with eight straight points.
When Dunn returned to the bench after picking up his fourth foul, the Bulldogs scored seven straight to make it 67-66. But when Dunn re-entered, the Friars put it away with free-throw shooting and defense.
Providence closed out the calendar year with a perfect month, going 7-0 in December. Its only loss this season came Nov. 29, when it fell 77-64 to Michigan State on a neutral court.
THE OTHER KD
Kellen Dunham’s shooting woes continued Thursday. The Butler senior had eight points on 3-of-14 shooting and is 10 for 60 from the field in his last six games.
Dunn draws quite a crowd on and off the court. Thursday was no exception. As the 6-foot-4 junior dealt with Butler’s defenders, NBA scouts Kevin Mackey and Todd Lickliter, the former Butler coach, were watching.
Friars: Providence has gone this deep into the season with one or no losses only three other times, most recently when they were 12-0 under coach Rick Barnes in 1988-89. … Indiana native Ryan Fazekas did not play. … The Friars have won four of the first five games in the series — all coming in the past two seasons.
Bulldogs: The Bulldogs are 7-1 on their home court. … Dunham wasn’t the only Bulldog struggling. Andrew Chrabascz, who grew up 28 miles from campus, was 2 of 11 from the field and had four points.
Providence hosts St. John’s on Saturday.
Butler visits No. 6 Xavier on Saturday.
- Ben Bentil
- Butler Bulldogs
- FOX Sports Indiana
- Kelan Martin
- Kellen Dunham
- Kris Dunn
- Rodney Bullock
- Roosevelt Jones
- Ryan Fazekas