No. 6 Butler puts lofty ranking on the line against Providence

NCAA Basketball
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Butler added another program first earlier this week.

The Bulldogs moved up five spots to No. 6 in the most recent Associated Press poll. The No. 6 ranking is the highest AP poll ranking and the highest in-season coaches poll ranking in program history.

The Bulldogs (14-1, 2-0 Big East) have won five games in a row since a 53-52 loss to ranked Baylor on the road on Dec. 10. Butler is back on the court after a six-day absence for a road game against Providence on Friday night in Big East action.

The Friars (10-6, 3-0) have history on their side in the series, winning the last three games between the two teams to own a 11-3 edge all-time. Providence crushed the Bulldogs, 80-57, in the last meeting at the Big East tourney on March 13, 2019.

But this Bulldogs team is battle-tested and relies on a tough defense to win games. Butler limited its last two conference teams — Creighton and St. John’s — to 18 percent shooting from beyond the arc, and ranks fourth nationally in allowing just 54.1 points per game.

Butler is coming off an impressive home win over Creighton, limiting the Bluejays to 4-for-22 shooting on 3-pointers.

“We had to make some adjustments in the second half as Creighton started to drive the ball,” Butler coach LaVall Jordan said. “It really came down to us defending without fouling after not being solid for a stretch there. I thought we finished this game strong, especially on the defensive end.”

Butler enters the conference showdown off to its sixth 14-1 start and first since 2001-02. Senior guard Kamar Baldwin is a key reason for Butler’s breakout season, averaging a team-high 14.7 points, and he’s shooting 46.7 percent on 3-pointers in road and neutral games. Baldwin scored all 20 of his points in the second half against the Bluejays.

The emergence of senior forward Sean McDermott is another factor in Butler’s uprising. McDermott recorded his first two career double-doubles in the last two games, and made multiple 3-pointers in seven straight games.

Providence is also a surprise team at this juncture of the season. The Friars own a four-game winning streak, and won their first three games in conference place for the first time since the 2008-09 season.

Maliek White had 19 points, and Nate Watson added 13 points in a thrilling 81-80 win over Marquette at Milwaukee on Tuesday. Providence shot 45.8 percent from the field and made five 3-pointers to overcome a 39-point effort from Markus Howard.

The Friars are no strangers to close games in the new decade, defeating DePaul 66-65 on Saturday as four of their wins have been by four points or less since Dec. 1.

Alpha Diallo leads the team with a 13.6 points per game average, while David Duke is averaging 11.8 points.

–Field Level Media

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