First game of the conference schedule, and the last game of 2013 did not disappoint fans. However, for Villanova, the New Year’s Eve celebrations will be a lot more sweeter. It was a heart pounding, back and forth game that needed more than just 40 minutes to cover it. Villanova would emerge victorious in overtime, winning 76-73.
Hinkle Fieldhouse was packed and crowded for this Big East opener. Neither team could establish a run that would open up the lead. There was never a lead greater than four points, and when it seemed one team was going to start building something, the other would respond with a run to equalize it. The Wildcats mainly took an offensive approach that pounded the paint inside. JayVaughn Pinkston was on a mission after being contained at Syracuse. He only had three points the whole game, but here he had 12 of his 22 points in the first half. He was a lot for Butler to handle, using his footwork and strength to dominate the paint. For Butler, their first half was filled with displays of their teamwork and unselfishness. Moving the ball around the court to anyone and everyone, as their team is filled with good scorers. It was a big half not for Kellen Dunham or Khyle Marshall (because of foul trouble), but rather Elijah Brown coming off the bench and adding 12 points. He made a pair of threes and also did a good amount of work at the free throw line. Villanova shot an efficient 52% in the first half. Butler shot 35.7% from the floor, but the three ball kept them going in the game.
The second half opened up with a Daniel Ochefu layup. Ochefu had a pretty solid game, scoring 8 points (4-4) with 4 rebounds and 3 blocks to go along with it. He was limited due to foul trouble, but during the time he was on the floor, he was helpful in the winning effort. The game was a lot more of the same in the second half, with many ties and lead changes. The Wildcats continued to go inside, but they also looked a little more to the perimeter than they did in the first half. Darrun Hilliard continued to play tough and drive inside. He shot 2 for 6 for the whole game, but he was great from the free throw line where he was 11 for 14. Josh Hart made back to back three pointers to help Villanova build a seven point lead at one point in the second half, only to see it fade away. Butler’s Dunham stepped up big in the second half. He had 11 points in the second half, including the game tying jumper with 21.5 seconds left that would send the game into overtime.
Ryan Arcidiacono loves overtime, he started it off with a three pointer to give Villanova the lead. Hilliard followed it up with a pair of free throws to give the Wildcats a five point lead. However, the team in the lead could never rest easy, and that was the case again when a Dunham three pointer would bring the game within reach again for Butler. He would strike again later in overtime with a layup to make it 74-73 after Hart’s pair of missed crucial free throws. Khyle Marshall who had been giving Villanova issues inbounding the ball late in the game, forced a turnover and gave the Bulldogs a chance to take the lead. They looked to Dunham who missed the three pointer, but the Bulldogs never backed down. Marshall grabbed the offensive board and Butler had another chance with just under ten seconds left in the game. The Wildcats would respond by giving the Bulldogs a taste of their own medicine and force a turnover off the inbounds pass. Pinkston would make two key free throws to give Villanova a three point lead and the win in an exciting, wild game.
Villanova will return home to host Providence this Sunday, January 5, 2014. Tip-off will be at 7 p.m.
Nova Nation have a Happy New Year and see you in 2014!