PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP)With No. 23 Providence trailing Butler by seven midway through the first half, Friars coach Ed Cooley brought Jared Bynum off the bench.
PC scored the next 13 points and never trailed again.
Boosted by the return of their regular starting point guard, the Friars overcame a sluggish start and pulled away to beat Butler 79-58 on Wednesday night. Bynum had four points, three assists and a rebound in just under 11 minutes – his first action after missing four games with an abdominal strain.
”He gave us a spark, and that’s exactly what we needed,” Cooley said. ”His presence gave us a `settle-me-down’ type of feeling.”
Bryce Hopkins had 16 points and seven rebounds and Devin Carter added 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Friars (16-5, 8-2 Big East), who had a 42-24 rebounding edge and outscored the Bulldogs 48-20 in the paint.
”I feel like my length was a factor,” said Clifton Moore, who came off the bench to score 12 points with two rebounds and two blocked shots. ”To provide that rim protection, my size was really a factor.”
Eric Hunter Jr. had 12 points and Jayden Taylor scored 10 with a team-high five rebounds for Butler (11-11, 3-8).
Bynum was averaging 9.1 points and 4.4 assists for the Friars, starting 16 games before he was injured in their victory over then-No. 4 Connecticut on Jan. 4. Without him, the Friars went 2-2, beating St. John’s, losing at Creighton and Marquette, and then beating DePaul.
Providence was trailing Butler 16-9 with about nine minutes gone on Wednesday night when Cooley turned to Bynum, who had practiced less than an hour since the injury and was limited to 8-12 minutes.
The senior guard had a layup that cut the deficit to one point and then assisted on Moore’s basket that put the Friars ahead for good.
”His presence makes other teams, they have to lean towards him to try to stop him, do other things,” guard Jayden Pierre said. ”Having him out there frees us up. We just have to be basketball players and make plays.”
The 13-0 run gave Providence a 22-16 lead; it was 24-19 when Bynum went back to the bench. Carter hit a 3-pointer at the end of the half, then PC scored the first six points of the second to make it 42-26.
KEEPING IN TOUCH
Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens sat in the first row behind the Butler bench to cheer on the team he took to back-to-back NCAA finals before leaving for the NBA in 2013. Stevens coached the Celtics for eight years before moving into the front office in 2021.
After two consecutive losses, to Creighton and then-No. 20 Marquette, the Friars dropped from a high of 19th to 23rd. They have a chance to climb back into the top 20 next week.
Butler: Hosts Seton Hall on Saturday.
Providence: Visits Villanova on Sunday.
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