Tyler Wideman and Henry Baddley go up for a rebound. Wideman finished the game with 10 points and seven rebounds. Photo courtesy of Jimmy Lafakis.
JOSHUA DOERING | ASST. SPORTS EDITOR | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Butler men’s basketball team finally got back into the win column with a 69-54 win at home over Providence. After trailing by two at halftime, the Bulldogs outscored the Friars by 17 in the second half to pull away for the victory. Butler got contributions from a plethora of players. Here are three takeaways from a massive win.
1. This was a true team effort.
When Kelan Martin and Kamar Baldwin combine for 12 points in the first half, Butler usually finds itself in big trouble on offense. Thanks to contributions from a wide cast of characters, the Bulldogs made sure that didn’t happen in this game. Six different Bulldogs had at least seven points and five players contributed four or more rebounds. Everyone came to play in this game and it was very easy to tell.
At the end of the day, this team is going as far as Martin and Baldwin carry it. The Bulldogs are not a balanced team where five or six different players could lead in scoring any given game. That being said, Butler’s ceiling will be determined by everyone else. When opposing teams focus in on Martin and Baldwin, the supporting cast needs to take advantage, which is what happened in this one.
2. Butler forced Providence to play halfcourt offense.
Taking a team out of transition and making them score against a set defense is a major positive. That’s exactly what Butler did. The Bulldogs held the Friars to only two fastbreak points and zero points off turnovers in the first half. Providence managed five points off turnovers while Butler recorded 15. In a close defensive struggle, those easy baskets in transition can be the difference between winning and losing.
The Friars shot 46 percent from the field and 43 percent from three in the first half, but weren’t able to sustain their shooting for the full 40 minutes. Providence started the second half by missing 11 of their first 12 field goals, leading to a 12-2 Butler run that saw the Bulldogs take the lead for good. In the closing 20 minutes, Butler held the Friars to 19 points on 16 percent shooting. The Bulldogs made Providence earn every point they got in this game and came away victorious as a result.
3. With the pressure on, the Bulldogs stepped up.
Dropping a fourth straight game and a third consecutive at home would’ve put Butler’s NCAA tournament chances in real jeopardy. Had they lost to Providence, the Bulldogs almost certainly would have needed to win two of their last three games. Considering two of those are on the road and there are exactly zero guaranteed wins in the Big East, that would have been a tall task.
Now, the Bulldogs enter their final home game with a chance to grab a ninth conference win and a realistic shot at finishing Big East play with a winning record. Give Butler credit for knowing what was at stake in this game and showing up with a sense of urgency. They didn’t panic when Providence took the lead early and absolutely took control coming out of halftime. This win completely changes Butler’s outlook heading into their final three games.