#11 Friars Come Up Clutch Again, Beating Butler in Big East Quarterfinal

The No. 11/10 and No. 1 seed Providence College men’s basketball team defeated the No. 9 seed Butler Bulldogs, 65-61, on Thursday, March 10 in the BIG EAST Tournament Quarterfinals at Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y. Graduate student Nate Watson (Portsmouth, Va.) led the way with a season-high and game-high 26 points. Junior Jared Bynum (Largo, Md.) added 16 points for the Friars. Graduate students Al Durham (Lilburn, Ga.) and Justin Minaya (Harrington Park, N.J.) each made crucial contributions in the final minute of the game. Durham knocked down the go-ahead three-pointer with 41-seconds left in regulation and Minaya recorded the game-sealing block.

“We didn’t do a lot of things great, but we did enough to win,” Head Coach Ed Cooley said. “Today was a microcosm of the type of season we’re having.”

With the win, the Friars advanced to the BIG EAST Tournament Semifinals and will take on the winner of the No. 4/No. 5 game (Creighton/Marquette) on Friday, March 11 at 6:30 p.m. at Madison Square Garden.

FIRST HALF:
Durham put the Friars on the board first from the free throw line.
At the 18:36 mark, A.J. Reeves (Roxbury, Mass.) knocked down his first three-pointer of the game. PC held an early 9-3 lead at the first media timeout.
With just over 12 minutes to play in the half, Butler tied the game at 11. On the next possession, Bynum took the ball to the basket to break the tie.
PC trailed 24-18 with less than seven minutes remaining in the half. The Friars were held without a field goal during a stretch of over five minutes. Noah Horchler (Melbourne Beach, Fla.) ended the drought with a layup at the 6:20 mark.
At the 3:59 mark, Minaya connected on a three-pointer from the left corner, capitalizing off a missed dunk by Butler. The Friars regained the lead, 27-25.
The teams traded empty possessions during the final stretch of the half. The Friars endured another cold streak, going nearly three minutes without scoring.
Watson threw down an emphatic second-chance dunk with 37-seconds left in the half. On the ensuing possession, Chuck Harris responded for the Bulldogs with a mid-range jumper.
The game was knotted, 31-31, at halftime.
Watson and Butler’s Chuck Harris each notched double figures in the first half.
The rebound battle was split evenly in the first half, with each team recording 23 boards.
Providence shot 8-27 (29.6%) from the field, 2-12 (16.7%) from three, and 13-18 (72.2%) from the free throw line.
Butler shot 10-29 (34.5%) from the field, 2-12 (16.7%) from three, and 9-17 (52.9%) from the free throw line.

SECOND HALF:
Horchler found Watson in the paint for the Friars’ first basket of the second half.
Bynum began to heat up early in the half. At the 16:55 mark, Bynum, gained separation from the defender with a cross-over, and buried a deep three-pointer. PC trailed by one, 37-36.
As the game progressed, the Bulldogs continued to get open looks at the rim. The Friars used a timeout with just under 12 minutes remaining. Butler held the lead, 49-45.
Midway through the half, the Friars were held scoreless for over four minutes. Horchler provided the only spark on offense, knocking down three-pointers on each end of the drought.
At the 4:52 mark, Watson fought through the defense to tie the game , 53-53. The game remained level (55-55) at the final media timeout.
Heading into the final two minutes, Butler led 59-56.
At the 1:20 mark, Watson finished in the paint and drew the foul, but missed the ensuing free throw. Providence cut the deficit to one, 59-58. On the next possession, the Friars forced a stop on defense.
“If we continue to get stops, we continue to keep ourselves in the game,” Watson explained. “We pride ourselves on the defensive end.”
The Friars needed one basket to take the lead. Reeves found Durham in the left corner, who buried the clutch go-ahead three-pointer with 0:41 to play. The Friars took the lead, 61-59. It marked Durham’s first made three-ball since January 30.
“That’s a credit to my teammates and my coaches having faith in me, and a credit to the grind and work and faith,” Durham said.
On the other end of the floor, Minaya rejected Butler’s final shot, a layup attempt by Simas Lukosius, to seal the victory for the Friars, allowing Bynum to secure the defensive rebound.

NOTES / HIGHLIGHTS:
The Friars improved to 25-4 on the year. It’s the first time the program has recorded 25 wins since 1986-87 (25-9).
Providence leads the all-time series against Butler, 16-5, including a 3-0 mark in BIG EAST Tournament play.
Providence finished 20-54 (37.0%) from the field, 6-25 (24.0%) from three, and 19-29 (65.5%) from the free throw line.
Butler finished 22-61 (36.1%) from the field, 3-19 (15.8%) from three, and 14-23 (60.9%) from the free throw line.
The Bulldogs edged the Friars on the boards, 44-41.
There were 11 ties and 12 lead changes in the game.
Chuck Harris led Butler in scoring with 14 points. Bo Hodges finished with a double-double for the Bulldogs, recording 10 points and a game-high 15 rebounds.
Cooley is 15-9 all-time at Providence while coaching in Madison Square Garden.
The Friars improved to 67-62 all-time in Madison Square Garden.
The Friars improved to 11-2 in games decided by five points or less.
In their win over Creighton on February 26, the Friars won the BIG EAST regular season title for the first time ever.
The Friars finished the season with a 16-1 mark at home, which is the best mark since 1973-74 (16-0).
The Friars have been ranked for 12-consecutive weeks after entering the polls on December 20, 2021.

WHAT’S NEXT:
The No. 1 seed Friars will face the winner of the No. 4/5 game (Creighton/Marquette) on Friday, March 11 in the BIG EAST Tournament Semifinals. The game will tip off at 6:30 p.m. at Madison Square Garden and will be televised on FS1.

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