This Valentine’s Day matchup did not have any shortages of emotion. There was happiness, joy, excitement, sadness, and above all, shock and awe.
Holding a 65-63 lead, Villanova had a chance to make it a two possession game. Darrun Hilliard was called for a travel, allowing the Bulldogs to take over. Butler’s Roosevelt Jones sank a layup to tie the game with approximately 18 seconds left in the game. With no more time outs left, it was up to the Wildcats to make a basket or go to overtime.
Villanova dribbled the ball down the court, as Hinkle Fieldhouse erupted. Hilliard got the ball out to Ryan Arcidiacono. Two bulldog defenders quickly collapsed onto the junior guard, not giving the clutch shooter any room. Arcidiacono sent it right back to a wide open Darrun Hilliard. Hilliard rose and fired the ball.
The ball flew for what seemed to be an eternity. It plopped smoothly through the basket. The Villanova bench jumped for joy, as the thousands of fans that filled Hinkle Fieldhouse were silenced. The entire arena was in shock. The Wildcats took a 68-65 lead with only 1.5 seconds left in the game. The Bulldogs drew up a wonderful inbounds play that got Kelan Martin a great look at the basket. However, he could not sink it. The Wildcats breathed a sigh of relief, while the Bulldogs collapsed to the floor in disbelief.
The game met all expectations. It was highlighted by stifling defensive play and a career night for Darrun Hilliard. Both teams struggled to find their rhythm in the first half. Villanova was 11-of-30 (36.7%) on the floor and Butler was 8-of-27 (29.6%). There weren’t that many turnovers, only eight total turnovers between both teams. It kept the game close, keeping both teams engaged in a tight back-and-forth half.
Aside from the strong defensive effort, Butler did not have an answer for Darrun Hilliard. He had 11 of his 31 points in the first half, sinking three baskets from long range along the way. With or without a hand in his face, he was on fire.
The Wildcats had a 27-22 lead going into halftime.
A 6-0 Butler run allowed them to snatch the lead from the Wildcats. While both teams kept trading the lead, the Bulldogs held onto it for most of the second half. The pressure for Villanova to catch up mounted as the game went down the stretch. Allowing for Darrun Hilliard’s heroics to take over.
Darrun Hilliard finished with career night. He had 31 points, eight rebounds, and three assists. His eight baskets from long range are a new personal best. Outside of Hilliard, JayVaughn Pinkston was the only other player to finish in double figures. Pinkston chipped in 12 points and four rebounds in the winning effort.
For Butler, their guards did the talking. The tandem of Kellen Dunham and Alex Barlow proved to be a formidable duo. Dunham and Barlow had 19 points each. Barlow was 4-for-7 from beyond the arc.
Villanova is 23-2 overall and now has 10 Big East wins. The Wildcats will have a chance to avenge a loss from earlier this season, when they take on the Seton Hall Pirates on Monday night. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.