Ben Bentil scored 20 points and Rodney Bullock added 16 as No. 16 Providence dodged a bullet and picked up a win they desperately needed on Tuesday night, knocking off No. 18 Butler, 71-68, at the Dunkin Donuts Center.
I say the Friars dodged a bullet because they picked off a good Butler team on a night where Kris Dunn struggled. The Friars star finished with nine points and seven assists, but he managed just eight shots from the floor as Butler head coach Chris Holtmann put together a terrific defensive scheme to take away the Providence All-American.
The Bulldogs sat in a packed-in 2-3 zone where Roosevelt Jones was essentially tasked with guarding Dunn out to about 30 feet. Butler essentially dared Dunn to be a distributor, and it nearly worked. The Friars as a team shot 5-for-22 from three, and if it wasn’t for the play of Bentil and Bullock on the interior; I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention Kyron Cartwright here, as he had 13 points and caught fire towards the end of the half.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Dunn could have finished with 15 assists had his teammates been able to knock down the looks that he created, and it belies a bigger issue for the Friars. Coming into Tuesday night, Providence had lost two of their last three games, their lone win coming in a hideous performance at Creighton. During that stretch, they shot 13-for-67 (19.4%) from three while taking exactly half of their field goal attempts from beyond the arc. On the season, Providence entered Tuesday night ranked 288th nationally in three-point shooting.
That’s a problem.
Because it’s not going to change. The defenses that Providence faces are only going to get more and more compact as the likes of Bentil, Bullock, Ryan Fazekas and Drew Edwards continue to miss threes.
As far as Butler is concerned, I’m not sure that Bulldog fans should start getting worried just yet. At this point, their tournament hopes are not in jeopardy because they have exactly zero bad losses. Their Big East titles hopes are likely nothing more than a pipe dream as they are sitting at 2-4 in the league with wins over St. John’s and DePaul and a trip to Creighton looming at the weekend, but that’s not the biggest concern.
If, on a night where Kellen Dunham, Kelan Martin and Jones combine for 52 points while Providence shoots 5-for-22 from three and Dunn is quiet, the Bulldogs cannot beat Providence, it might be time to start questioning exactly what this group’s ceiling is.