Bulldogs set to take on Villanova

MATTHEW VANTRYON | Asst. Sports Editor IMG_0101

Butler will try to snap a six-game skid as the team travels to face to No. 8 Villanova tonight. The Wildcats (24-3, 12-2) are coming off a win over St. John’s and have won nine of their last 10 games.

Villanova defeated Butler 76-73 in overtime at Hinkle Fieldhouse on New Year’s Eve. The team ranks second in the Big East Conference in scoring, tallying a shade under 80 points per game.

The Bulldogs will face the tough task of stopping senior guard James Bell. Bell leads the Wildcats with 16 points per game this season. Butler held him to only seven points in the first matchup.

Villanova is 16-1 at home this season.

The game will tip-off at 8 p.m. and will be televised on Fox Sports 1.

Butler hosted Providence College Sunday evening and was unable to stop a fiery Friars’ offense.

Despite a second-half surge, Butler fell 87-81.

The game was tightly contested at the start, as a sparse Hinkle Fieldhouse crowd saw three ties and five lead changes. However, the Friars (18-10, 8-7) kept pace with a Butler offense that hit its first six shots. Butler eventually went cold, while Providence kept rolling.

Providence shot 71 percent from beyond the arc in the first half and 68 percent from the field. The Friars came into the game last in the Big East Conference shooting percentage, averaging 47 percent.

Providence coach Ed Cooley marveled at his team’s ability to put the ball in the basket.

“Some days you look in the mirror and say, ‘How the hell did she marry me?’” Cooley said. “That was our shooting today.”

Sophomore guard Josh Fortune connected on four of six attempts from behind the arc en route to 12 first-half points, while senior Bryce Cotton added 11 points.

Cotton finished with a game-high 28 points.

The Bulldogs trailed 46-33 going into the locker room.

Khyle Marshall scored 13 points in the half, connecting on his first three shot attempts. He hit a 3-pointer in the half, his first since November 2011 against Indiana University.

Butler stormed back in the opening minutes of the second half to take a 51-48 lead. Sophomore guard Kellen Dunham was a big part of the comeback, scoring eight points in the midst of the Bulldogs’ spurt.

Providence kept the contest close, and led by as much as six with less than five minutes to go. The Friars widened their lead as Butler went cold from the field again.

Junior guard Alex Barlow committed a crucial foul with less than two minutes to go, allowing Providence to get to the line and widen its lead to eight with 1:26 to play.

Butler coach Brandon Miller said mental lapses crippled the team at the end of the game.

“Unfortunately we didn’t play smart enough at the end of the basketball game to come out on top,” Miller said.

Freshman forward Andrew Chrabascz nailed a 3-pointer to cut the Bulldogs’ deficit to four with 42 seconds remaining, but Providence excelled at the free throw line late, hitting 10-of-13 down the stretch and sealing the Bulldogs’ fate.

Providence shot 67 percent from the floor in the contest, including converting 13-of-20 shots from behind the arc.

Miller praised the Friars’ play despite Butler’s struggles.

“I give most of the credit to them,” Miller said. “They shared the ball, they moved the ball well. Part of it is on us, but they played a good basketball game.”

Five players scored in double figures for Providence. Cotton led the way with 28. Junior forward LaDontae Henton scored 15, while Fortune, senior forward Kadeem Batts and sophomore forward Tyler Harris each scored 14 points.

Dunham scored 25 for Butler, while Marshall chipped in 22. Chrabascz added 14 points.

Butler shot 49 percent from the floor and comitted only six turnovers in the contest.

The 81 points was Butler’s highest scoring output since its 99-94 double-overtime loss versus DePaul on Jan. 9.