Butler vs. Providence: Quick hits

Kamar Baldwin brings the ball down the court during a game this season. Baldwin tallied 17 points and seven rebounds in Butler’s 70-58 win at Providence on Jan. 10. Chandler Hart / Collegian file photo.

CHRIS BROWN | SPORTS EDITOR | cbbrown@butler.edu

Another strong defensive effort and teamwork on the offensive end was the story once more as the Butler men’s basketball team improved to 15-1 on the season and 3-0 in the Big East with a 70-58 win at Providence on Jan. 10. The Bulldogs joined Seton Hall as the only two Big East teams undefeated in conference play.

Here’s a look at some of the key news, stats, notes and quotes from the victory:

The Bulldogs are 15-1 to start the season for the first time in 11 years and just the fourth time this century. Butler’s other such starts since 2000 were the 2002-03, 07-08 and 08-09 seasons. In the latter, the Bulldogs won the Horizon League regular season championship and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, where they fell to LSU in the first round.

Butler is 3-0 to start Big East play for the first time since joining the conference. The Bulldogs started the 2017-18 Big East season with two straight wins before falling to fifth-ranked Xavier on the road.

Jordan Tucker had an outstanding game for the Bulldogs off the bench. The junior forward came in just over six minutes into the first half and made an immediate impact, applying pressure defensively and knocking down 3-pointers. Tucker finished with a season-high 17 points on 7-of-11 from the field and also tallied six rebounds. He also continued to show some defensive strides, drawing fouls and picking up a steal in the effort. Tucker is now averaging just over 10 points in his last six games.

Butler head coach LaVall Jordan had high praise for Tucker. “I just kept telling him be aggressive,” Jordan said during a televised postgame interview. “Don’t get reckless but be aggressive because Kamar got two fouls in the first half, we needed somebody to step up, and he’s got that ability.” 

It was truly a team effort offensively, as in addition to Tucker, three other Butler players scored in double figures. Kamar Baldwin scored 17 points and had seven rebounds along with two assists. Bryce Golden finished just shy of a double-double, contributing 14 points on 5-of-7 from the field along with nine boards. Bryce Nze added 10 points and seven rebounds – along with a more troubling six turnovers – and Sean McDermott finished just one point shy of double figures. It’s the first time since their win over Purdue on Dec. 21 that the Bulldogs have had four players score 10 or more points.

Butler picked up its fourth ever win against Providence and its first in Rhode Island since March 2015. The Friars entered this game leading the all-time series 11-3, and having won all three contests between the two teams a season ago. The Bulldogs had lost four straight games at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

Butler had another impressive first half defensively, limiting Providence to just 18 points on 20% shooting – 6-of-30 – from the field and 15% – 2-of-13 – from beyond the arc. In the first half of its last six games, the Bulldogs have held their opponents to just 23% from the field and an average of just over 18 points. 

Turnovers kept Butler from potentially pulling away earlier. The Bulldogs committed an astounding 24 turnovers against St. John’s in their conference opener, but rebounded in that department with just seven against Creighton. Against the Friars, the Bulldogs coughed up the ball 17 times, which prevented them from pulling away in this game sooner. Providence cut the lead to eight with just under four minutes remaining but Butler was able to hold off any Friars’ hopes of a comeback.

Butler out-rebounded the Friars 44-26, marking the 13th time in 16 games this season the Bulldogs’ have won the battle on the boards. Last season, Butler only out-rebounded 10 of its 33 opponents. Butler’s +18 rebounding margin is the second-highest this season, topped only by a +22 mark at St. John’s.

Up next: The Bulldogs will return to Indianapolis to host Seton Hall on Wednesday, Jan. 15, in their first game following the resumption of classes on campus following winter break. The Pirates, picked in the preseason to finish atop the Big East, are 3-0 to start conference play and set to host Marquette on Jan. 11. Seton Hall is 11-4 on the season and just missed the top 25 in the most recent AP weekly poll. The Pirates were 14th at KenPom and 19th in the NET rankings heading into play on Friday. Last season, Butler defeated Seton Hall by two points at home and lost by one point on the road.

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