There was no need for overtime or for some last second heroics. This time, Villanova needed some defensive stops and clutch free throws to ice the game. The Wildcats were able to get both and held on to beat the Butler Bulldogs 60-55.
The Hinkle Fieldhouse was full of raucous and rowdy fans hoping to egg on their 18th ranked squad, and to potentially get in the heads of the #11 Wildcats.
The crazy student atmosphere was duly noted by the entire Villanova team and head coach Jay Wright. However, Wright and company seemed to embrace it and wouldn’t let the noise and taunts get to them.
“We just love playing here,” said Coach Wright. “We have so much respect for (Butler). When you play here, you’re going to have to be tough. You are going to have to be intelligent in time and score situations. You’ve got to do that as a team and that was so important.”
The beginning of the game was a defensive struggle. Lock down defense, poor shot selection, and ugly looking shots meant points were at a premium. So much so, that both teams combined for 22 points in the first 11 minutes.
Butler, however, would settle in and get things rolling late in the second. The two Bulldog stars of Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones, who was playing with an injury, combined for 13 points after the eight minute mark to give Butler a 27-21 lead going into the half.
On the flip side, not much was going for Villanova offensively in the first half. The 21 points put up by the Wildcats was a season low for the first half. Foul trouble for both Daniel Ochefu and Jalen Brunson could be attributed for the slow start. Josh Hart was the lone stand out, scoring eight of the Wildcats’ first half points.
In the second half, Villanova responded to what was said in the locker room and came out firing. Ryan Arcidiacono nailed a corner three that gave the team some confidence to start shooting. Arcidiancono followed up the three, with a layup and added two assists on Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges treys to give Villanova a lead they would not relinquish.
When Arcidiacono was contributing his strong play, Josh Hart came in and took over the game. Coming off three strong games in a row, Hart made sure Butler would not make any sort of comeback. Great defense and the ability to drive to the basket and dish helped Hart pitch in 14 second half points.
After Hart sunk two free throws to extend the Villanova lead to nine, Butler’s Roosevelt Jones put the Bulldogs on his back to make sure they would not go quietly into the night. Jones scored the next ten points for Butler and cut the lead to three and gave his team a chance to tie.
However, Butler would miss the three and Ochefu would gather the rebound. He was immediately fouled, but was able to ice the game with two clutch free throws to give the Cats the win.
With the win, Villanova has now beaten two ranked teams on the year. After the game Jay Wright said about Butler, “That’s as good as a team as we played.”
For the game, Wright’s team shot 41.5% from the field, while only shooting a measly 26.7% from deep. What kept the Cats afloat was superb performance from the line where the team made 12 out of their 13 attempts.
Hart led Villanova with a double-double, where he chipped in 22 points and added 11 boards. Arcidiancono was the only other Wildcat player to surpass ten points. He contributed 11 points and four assists.
The Bulldogs did not fare as well from the field where they shot only 35.8% from the floor. The three point shooting did not help where they had a 20% success rate.
Jones was the top dog for Butler as he continued his strong season, dropping 20 points and five boards. Dunham and Tyler Wideman both hit double digits in scoring adding 13 and ten respectively to the Butler cause.
With the loss, Butler falls to 1-3 in Big East competition, with a 12-4 record on the season.
Villanova was able to remain the only undefeated in Big East play and now holds a record of 4-0, and 14-2 overall.
Villanova will be back in action Wednesday night at 8:30 p.m. against Marquette at the Pavilion.