Game Notes & Preview: (12) Providence (12-1) at (9) Butler (11-1) 12/31/15

Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse – Indianapolis, IN

When: 2:30pm EST

How: CBSSN (Dave Ryan & Scott Wolf)/WEEI 103.7 FM and Friars.com (John Rooke and Joe Hassett)/FriarTV

Game Notes

  • Providence and Butler will meet for the 5th time on Thursday with the Friars leading, 3-1. The Friars and Bulldogs first played on January 21, 2014 after Butler joined the Big East. The Friars split with Butler last season, with each team winning on the other’s home court.
  • Butler is 11-1 on the season. The Bulldogs’ only loss of the season is to Miami and the Hurricanes are currently ranked 13th in the latest AP Poll. The Bulldogs are led in scoring by senior guard Kellen Dunham, who averages 15.5 points/game. Senior Roosevelt Jones is the leading rebounder, averaging 7.8 rebounds/game.
  • The last time Providence shot over 60% from the field was in an 87-81 win at Butler on February 23, 2014. The Friars shot 66.7% in that game and were led by 28 points from Bryce Cotton.
  • The Friars were leapfrogged in the latest AP poll by Iowa State and Kentucky despite gaining more points from the week before. Providence is now 12th in the AP poll and moved up one spot in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll to 13th.
  • Opening Line: (12) Providence +8 at (9) Butler 12/31/15

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Game Preview

Big East play has finally arrived and the Friars will open up on the road in league play for the first time since they faced #4 Louisville on January 2, 2013. Butler and Providence have both surprised some people through the non-conference schedule. Butler opened 24th in the AP poll and 22nd in the USA Today Coaches’ poll back on November 2nd. The Bulldogs dropped out of both polls after their loss against Miami but then came roaring back and have been in the top 10 the last two weeks. Providence was on the outside looking in of both polls at the season’s start, but once the Friars entered the polls on November 30th — 23rd in AP and 24th in Coaches’ — they haven’t looked back and have settled in at number 12 in the AP and 13 in the Coaches’ this week. This game will be only the second time ever Butler and their opponent have squared off at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse while ranked in the top 15. The other time was January 19, 2013 when #13 Butler defeated #8 Gonzaga on a buzzer-beater from Roosevelt Jones.

The probable starters according to the game notes and prior box scores are:

Providence
  • Kris Dunn – #3 – Junior
  • Junior Lomomba – #32 – Junior
  • Jalen Lindsey – #21 – Sophomore
  • Rodney Bullock – #5 – Sophomore
  • Ben Bentil – #0 – Sophomore
Butler
  • Tyler Lewis – #1 – Junior
  • Kellen Dunham – #24 – Senior
  • Roosevelt Jones – #21 – Senior
  • Andrew Chrabascz – #45 – Junior
  • Tyler Wideman – #4 – Sophomore

This game will be a matchup of Butler’s league leading offense and Providence’s stingy, turnover-forcing defense. Butler is averaging 89.9 points/game through their 12 non-conference games, including a 144 point night in their opener against the Citadel. The Bulldogs have only scored under 75 points twice and both times they scored 74. Providence has only allowed an opponent over 75 points twice this season and one was Michigan State. Neither team turns the ball over much, but Providence has been forcing turnovers at a 22.1% clip. Points off turnovers could be a big stat in this game as I expect it will be tight and any advantage in a scoring category could be the reason for victory when the final buzzer sounds. I expect this game to be highly entertaining and a back and forth affair. The team that has the ball last could be the team that wins this game. Making sure Kellen Dunham doesn’t get out of his horrific shooting slump — 7/46 from the field in his last 4 games — and keeping Mr. Microwave Kelan Martin from hurting them will be Providence’s key matchups. Martin has been the best 6th man in the Big East during non-conference play and I expect he’ll get a heavy dose of Kris Dunn and Junior Lomomba when he enters the game on Thursday.

Prediction: Providence 82 Butler 81

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