The Providence Friars defeated the Butler Bulldogs 80-57 to open Big East Tournament play on Wednesday. What started as a favorable game for the Bulldogs quickly changed in the latter minutes of the first half. The Bulldogs jumped out to an early lead by forcing the Friars into four turnovers in the first few minutes. While the Friars struggled to keep up in scoring, they needed an answer fast. Enter Maliek White.
White finished the half with 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting from the field (including 3-for-6 from three), in what completely changed the complexion of the game. His three straight three-pointers shifted all the momentum, energizing the fans and also his teammates.
To open the second half, White got the hoop and the harm on a driving layup for the first Friar basket. White appeared to pick up right where he left off, connecting on his first three attempts of the half to bring him to a season-high (and career-high) 19 points. In a game where he vastly outpaced his season average (5.9 points), White was in complete control and showed confidence in all his moves. In the post-game, he noted exactly where he got that confidence:
“My teammates just gave me confidence to keep shooting the ball. I know I started off and missed 3 open threes, and in that timeout, coach told us we have to take those open shots and I kept shooting, and I was fortunate for them to keep going in.”
If the Friars are to have any shot at upending the reigning defending Big East Champion Villanova Wildcats, they will need a repeat performance from White. On a bright Madison Square Garden stage where stars shine, the Junior guard embraced the challenge Wednesday night and stepped up huge.