Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s officially sweep season in the Big East. At the end of the day, a race for the Big East crown is all about getting splits and a few sweeps along the way. Well the Friars are now two-for-two in their chances to sweep a conference foe with a 79-58 victory over Butler Wednesday night. They started off slow. It may have been the fact that UConn’s failed comeback attempt extended into the Friars tip-off slot for FS1. Providence found its groove halfway through the first half and never looked back. We recap the game, speaking to the incredible bench production and return of Jared Bynum.
Clifton Moore and Corey Floyd Jr. Shine- It was a night to remember for Moore and Floyd Jr. The Friars trailed 16-9 early against Butler and in came Moore and Floyd. They instantly set the tone that they were going to get theirs in the paint, and the script flipped. By the U8 media timeout the Friars were up 20-16. Moore and Floyd Jr each had 12 points and made an impact on the defensive end. We’ve been critical of the bench this season (rightly so) but this is a fantastic development. With Bynum returning, we could see more production moving ahead from the bench.
We cannot say enough about Floyd Jr. He should theoretically be a true freshman this year, but re-classified early to play at that regional school in Storrs. He is already incredibly developed physically, and I can’t help but wonder what type of impact he is going to have moving forward as a big-bodied veteran guard under Ed Cooley. This is the classic case of player development, and it wouldn’t shock us to see Floyd Jr. become an All-Conference player by his junior year. He has the traits and attitude for it, along with the skillset.
Bynum’s Return- Also inserted into the lineup with Floyd Jr and Moore was the return of Jared Bynum. After missing the last 4+ games, his impact on the team was immediately felt. Bynum finished with 4 points, 3 assists and 0 turnovers in 11 minutes of action. To borrow a Ed Cooley quote from a recent Brendan McGair article in the Pawtucket Times: “We’re not going to be a championship-level team until we’re full throttle. It’s not about doubting anyone else. When Jared is on the floor … he’s a fifth-year senior and knows how to win. He sets the table”. We certainly got a glimpse at full throttle tonight, where Bynum’s presence on the floor gave the Friars the necessary spark to go on a big run and get a lead.
Hopkins Settling Versus Best Version of Bryce – It’s really hard to be critical of Hopkins. The one thing I will mention is that he sometimes lets his opponent off the hook by settling for jumpers. Bryce has an incredible ability to get to the rim and finish there, but doesn’t necessarily always use that skill. That is what happened at the start (and for most of the first half). When Hopkins decided to take his defender off the dribble, it was all but over. He’s a mismatch nightmare, and I hope Cooley continues to reiterate to Hopkins that nobody can effectively guard him for 40 minutes when he plays downhill.
Butler Gets Knocked Down and Can’t Get Up- It’s been the story of Butler’s season. If you put the Bulldogs in the corner, they’re going to put their tail between their legs. Back in your cage!
That certainly happened tonight. Again, the Bulldogs showed right tonight and raced out to a 16-9 lead. Once the Friars punched back it was a 10-point lead at the half and shortly ballooned to 16 points less the two minutes into the second frame. The Friars deserve a ton of credit, but Butler folds way too easily.
If I’m Thad Matta, I’m scouring the transfer portal this offseason for a pass first point guard. They don’t have that right now and are relying far too heavily on individual action to produce. It’s not a recipe for long-term success, and they need a facilitator to make the offense “go”.
Tweet of the Night
With the victory, the Friars now stand at 16-5 overall and 8-2 in the conference. PC still remains a game behind Xavier for first place with the Musketeers win over Connecticut. The Friars now embark on another tough two-game road trip with Villanova and Xavier. Xavier has shown their mettle in this league, and Villanova might see the return of Justin Moore. It will be a challenge but it’s hard to doubt these Friars at this point. This road game at Providence is a statement game of sorts for the Friars, and a win here would show the Friars are gunning for a repeat.