March 06, 2015

Providence coach Ed Cooley is tired of seeing his team battle from behind, although that worked out OK the last time his club faced Butler.

His 16th-ranked Friars are still hoping to get off to a better start Tuesday night when they look to avoid their first three-game home losing streak in four seasons and complete a sweep of the No. 18 Bulldogs.

Providence (15-3, 3-2 Big East) fell 81-72 at home to Seton Hall on Saturday for its second loss in three games, with both at home. The Friars trailed by 10 points at halftime to continue a disturbing trend of double-digit deficits in the first half.

It happened in Providence's previous game last Tuesday when it trailed by 12 in a 50-48 win at Creighton. The Friars also fell behind by 12 in the first 20 minutes of a 65-64 defeat to Marquette on Jan. 5.

''We've been down double digits in each of our last three games,'' Cooley said. ''To try and fight back, it hasn't been a very good thing to watch.''

There was a good reason for those woes Saturday since star Kris Dunn was limited by foul trouble. Dunn fouled out with 16 points in 28 minutes.

''When Kris is in foul trouble, our identity changes as a program. He needs to be on the floor and we need to be more disciplined,'' Cooley said. ''At the same time, he was on the floor during the early part of the game when we struggled.''

These teams opened Big East play when Providence rallied from 11 down at halftime for an 81-73 win at Butler (13-4, 2-3) on New Year's Eve. Dunn and Ben Bentil both suffered through first-half foul trouble before they helped the Friars to a 56-point second half.

Bentil averages a Big East-leading 19.2 points with Dunn is second at 17.8.

Dunn had 20 points, nine assists and seven rebounds while Bentil scored 19. Rodney Bullock finished with a career-high 25 points and 10 rebounds.

"I think part of it was their two best players were out for the bulk of the first half and they're a big part of what they do," Butler coach Chris Holtmann said.

Kelan Martin scored a team-high 20 for Butler and Roosevelt Jones added 19. Leading scorer Kellen Dunham was held to eight points on 3-of-14 shooting.

Dunham has bounced back to average 18.5 points in his next four games, with 24 in Saturday's 78-58 rout of woeful St. John's. Martin had 22 points and 10 boards for his third double-double.

The Bulldogs have struggled after entering the Big East at 11-1. Their conference wins are versus the Red Storm and DePaul, who are a combined 0-12 in Big East play.

"Our guys recognize that we need to play better, but you never take a win for granted, especially a Big East win," Holtmann told the Bulldogs' official website. "We are focused on learning both from our losses and our wins at this point in the season."

Butler has split Big East games at Providence the previous two seasons, with Rhode Island native Andrew Chrabascz fouling out both times.

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