VILLANOVA, PA. 12/20/2016 – The Villanova Wildcats are the top ranked defensive team in the Big East. The Butler Bulldogs are atop the conference in offense. The game was a offense vs. defense match up. It was a pace that Wildcats wanted, but they trailed in the second half. Finally, top ranked Villanova asserted themselves and came away with a 77 – 67 win at The Pavilion on Senior Day.
“It was a typical Villanova – Butler game,” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright. “They are a tough match up for us. It’s not pretty, but if you are looking for pretty, you’re not going to beat Butler. We’ll take it and move on.”
As expected it was close. Butler had a 45 – 43 lead with 11:04 on the clock. Villanova started to get the stops on defense as needed. At that time the offense fed off the energy of the defense going on a 22 – 9 run over the next five and a half minutes to lead by double digits. The run was keyed by Kris Jenkins who had 11 of his 20 points in that stretch. Josh Hart added 8 of his game-high 22 points in the run. Darryl Reynolds put down a thunder dunk as an exclamation point. Once the defense kicked in, the offense became more effective.
“We made a couple of scrappy plays, got a couple of steals to get buckets,” said Arcidiacono.
“We were focused on playing Villanova basketball,” said Hart. “We were getting stops. This is what we do.”
The Villanova defense kept Butler well in check in the first half causing two scoring droughts of over eight and a half minutes in length. In that half the Bulldogs shot 34.6% (9 of 26) and 3 of 10 from the three-point line. The Wildcats were doing the job on defense, but did not get a major separation in the score despite shooting a respectable 12 for 28 (42.9%) and 4 for 14 from deep. The score was 34 – 25 at intermission Cats.
“We did some good things, and there were some moments in the second half when we needed to make a few more plays and a few more stops to get to within a possession or two in the last five minutes,” said Butler Coach Chris Holtmann. “But we weren’t able to get the necessary stops.”
Hart had 12 rebounds to give him his eighth double-double of the season. Arcidiacono had a season-high tying 9 assists. Daniel Ochefu had 6 points and 8 rebounds.
Butler had three players score in double figures led by Kelan Martin who scored 19 points. Roosevelt Jones added 16 and Kellen Dunham had 13 points.
“We are learning all kinds of things about being the hunted,” Wright said. “When we’re at home and fall behind we sense a little tightness. We can’t let that affect us.”
Next up for Villanova is a road game at #8/7 Xavier. The Wildcats defeated the Musketeers at The Pavilion earlier this season and need to be ready for a battle.
It was Senior Day at Villanova. The five seniors honored prior to the game were Ryan Arcidiacono, Daniel Ochefu, Patrick Farrell, Henry Lowe, and Kevin Rafferty.
Written By: Glenn Papazian