Providence squanders key Big East opportunity in home loss to Butler
No. 24 Providence entered Saturday's home game against No. 21 Butler with a terrific opportunity. Win, and nab the second seed in the upcoming Big East tournament and a bye into the quarterfinals. Win, and reach your highest conference finish since the 2000-01 season.
Instead, the Friars lost. Providence gets the No. 4 slot in the conference, right around where they were predicted to finish in the preseason.
With Butler's 68-64 road win over the Friars and Georgetown's 73-67 win over Seton Hall, the Hoyas secured the coveted second spot in the Big East tournament while the Bulldogs locked up No. 3.
It's a bitter end for the Friars, who controlled their own destiny for the second seed. Butler, meanwhile, continues to exceed expectations. While they've sputtered since a five-game winning streak in late January and early February, its win on Saturday prevented a fourth loss in its final seven games of the season.
The three-headed monster of Roosevelt Jones, Kellen Dunham and Kelan Martin, which finished the game with 45 points between them, propelled Butler to an 11-point halftime lead that ballooned to 16 with just over 13 minutes left in the game.
That's when Providence sophomore star Kris Dunn came alive. One half of the Friars' own dynamic duo with LaDontae Henton, who combine to average nearly 36 points per game, Dunn shook off a miserable two-point first half to bring the Friars back into the game. His five points in 24 seconds cut the deficit back to single digits, and would go on to pour in a game-high 23 points to go along with six assists, four steals and three rebounds.
With the crowd on their side, the Friars would draw within one on a Tyler Harris layup with 7:32 remaining. But that's when the comeback stopped. Martin scored five straight points and a Dunham three quickly had Butler back up nine, a lead it wouldn't surrender.
Butler now locks up the three seed in the Big East tournament and heads in having won three of its last four. Providence, meanwhile, is going to need to make some noise at Madison Square Garden or it could find its NCAA tournament seeding slipping.