Butler suffers another Big East blowout loss, falling 79-58 to Providence

After missing three games with a knee injury, Butler center Manny Bates returned to the lineup against Providence. The Bulldogs looked better with their star center early, but the usual offensive droughts, turnovers and poor interior defense continued to plague them.

Providence took control of the game in the first half and never looked back, cruising to a 79-58 win.

The loss is Butler's third in a row by 20-plus points and fourth loss in its last five games. Butler falls to 11-11 overall and 3-8 in the Big East. Its conference losses have come by an average of 22 points.

Here's three reasons Butler lost to Providence (16-5, 8-2).

Insider:After a fast start, Butler's warts have been exposed

Manny Bates provides boosts, still not enough

Both statements can be true: Butler is a better team with Manny Bates, but Bates is not enough to overcome its deficiencies. The North Carolina State transfer dealt with knee issues throughout the season before getting the knee drained and missing three games. Bates returned Wednesday and provided a spark early.

Bates scored four straight during a 9-2 run as Butler played with energy and found him down low. Then Providence took away Butler's entry passes and the offense went cold. Bates went to the bench and the Friars went on an 8-2 run.

"It was great to have him back out there," Butler coach Thad Matta said. "Just his leadership. ... He got in a bit of foul trouble, that did hurt us a little bit. Hopefully we can keep him out there. Keep him healthy and keep him out of foul trouble."

Butler struggled to hold onto the ball and Providence converted everything inside during the run. Bates returned but all of Butler's momentum had dissipated. The Friars closed the half on a 24-10 run.

All season long, the Dawgs have not responded to strong surges. When things start to go bad, the poor possessions mount and in the blink of an eye, and the Dawgs are trailing by double digits. Clifton Moore (12 points) and Bryce Hopkins (16 points) consistently got uncontested looks. Hopkins added multiple transition dunks, exploiting Butler's lackadaisical transition defense.

"The (basket) to start the second half we didn't come out at the level we needed to come out to play," Matta said. "They were able to get that quick start on us. When things don't go well we've got to play harder and smarter."

Matta challenged his team to win each individual battle in the first half. At the first sign of adversity, the Dawgs waved the white flag.

Butler misses bunnies, Providence does not

Butler's offense can't generate anything consistently because it struggles to make easy baskets. Providence poked the ball away for run-outs and breakaway dunks. When the Dawgs have an open look at the basket, nothing is guaranteed, and more times than not they fail to convert.

Twice Simas Lukosius was blocked at the rim on transition drives to the basket. Lukosius failed to create contact and draw the foul, and instead of pulling up for a floater, the sophomore went at the defender softly and got swatted.

Missing those seemingly sure baskets turn into big emotional swings. Butler does not have an offense capable of consistently generating open looks, so when they get them, they can't miss. Against Providence. the Dawgs shot just 37% from the field. They started 2-of-4 from 3 in the first half, but they finished the half 1-of-6.

Providence outscored Butler 48-20 in the paint and shot 30-for-54 (55%) from the field.

"Out of our timeouts we executed at the highest level and we didn't make the shot," Matta said. "Providence was making shots. They're making tough shots to start the game. We didn't make the tough ones. But it's funny because I didn't think they could keep making them and they did."

Jayden Taylor settles into bench role

With Bates back, only John-Michael Mulloy (foot) is out with an injury, but that doesn't mean Matta's rotational will expand. The longtime coach has settled on the seven players (Bates, Eric Hunter Jr., Chuck Harris, Lukosius, Ali Ali, Jalen Thomas and Jayden Taylor) he trusts, and they have to play better if Butler has any chance to compete.

On paper its a rotation with versatile, skilled players, but none of them have played with any consistency this season. Harris and Lukosius go through long stretches where they're not taking shots, despite being Butler's top scoring options. The one player that consistently plays with fire is Taylor.

The sophomore gets in the chest of opposing ballhandlers on defense and never shies from contact, using a eurostep to score at the rim. He relies too heavily on tough mid-range jumpers, but on a stagnant offense, the difficult shot is often Butler's best one.

Taylor had a breakout performance during the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament but has since settled into a sixth-man role. Taylor's playing like someone who has embraced his role and deserves extended minutes each game.

The 10 points the Indianapolis native scored against Providence do not tell the whole story. Trailing big, Taylor is always hustling, fighting for position and scrapping.

"I thought he came out and he competed," Matta said. "I wish a couple of those shots would have gone down, he had a couple good looks there at the beginning (of the game). He's learning. He's playing through it and that's what we've got to we got to continue to get him to do."

No. 23 Providence 79, Butler 58

BUTLER (11-11): Bates 2-4 2-4 6, Harris 2-6 2-2 7, Hunter 5-11 0-0 12, Ali 1-4 0-0 2, Lukosius 3-8 0-0 8, Taylor 4-12 2-5 10, J.Thomas 1-3 0-0 2, Wilmoth 0-2 0-0 0, Turnbull 2-4 0-0 6, Hughes 1-1 0-0 2, Tate 1-3 0-1 3. Totals 22-58 6-12 58.

PROVIDENCE (16-5): Croswell 3-5 0-0 6, Hopkins 6-10 4-4 16, Breed 2-2 0-0 4, Carter 3-8 3-4 10, Locke 2-5 3-5 8, Floyd 4-5 2-2 12, Moore 5-6 2-2 12, Pierre 2-5 0-0 5, Bynum 2-5 0-0 4, Castro 1-2 0-1 2, O'Haire 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 30-54 14-18 79.Halftime—Providence 36-26. 3-Point Goals_Butler 8-19 (Turnbull 2-2, Lukosius 2-3, Hunter 2-5, Tate 1-1, Harris 1-3, Ali 0-2, Taylor 0-3), Providence 5-17 (Floyd 2-2, Carter 1-2, Pierre 1-2, Locke 1-4, Moore 0-1, Bynum 0-3, Hopkins 0-3). Rebounds_Butler 23 (Taylor 5), Providence 36 (Carter 10). Assists_Butler 10 (Harris 3), Providence 17 (Carter, Pierre 4). Total Fouls_Butler 15, Providence 13.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Butler basketball: Butler suffers blowout Big East loss to Providence