PHILADELPHIA, PA. 2/10/2018 – Simply put, this was the rematch. The Butler Bulldogs were the first team to hand the top-ranked Villanova Wildcats a defeat this season. A chance for pay back for the Cats, and the added incentive of avoiding back to back defeats in awhile.
Villanova evened the season series with Butler behind a strong second half winning 86 – 75 at a sold out Wells Fargo Center. The Bulldogs had the better first half, and it was up to the Wildcats to adjust. Jay Wright felt his team was in survival mode, so the team had to play more zone defense and give more minutes to the freshman.
Additionally, it helps when experienced guards key the offense. Donte DiVincenzo scored a career-high 30 points making 11 of his 20 shots. It also set a career-mark in made field goals for the red-shirt sophomore. Jalen Brunson scored 30 points, one shy of his career-best making 10 of 18 from the floor. They three-point shooting was not good, so they took it to the basket. And helped offset the production of the Butler scoring duo of Kelan Martin (30 points and Kamar Baldwin who netted 25 points. Yet it was not scoring that impressed Wright about the performance of DiVincenzo.
“You’re going to say I’m crazy, but I think Donte had his best defensive game of the season,” said Wright. “He had 30 points but at the top of the zone he kept people in front of him, he guarded everybody, he was involved in rebounding and kept some balls alive. It was really his 40 minutes of hard defense and his activity on the glass.”
Doing something different had no adverse affect on the team according to DiVincenzo.
“It’s not that much different,” DiVincenzo said. “We practice it a lot, so we are used to playing and practicing with it. We just had to make the adjustment to playing with it more especially against teams that play similar offenses like we saw today.”
Butler was hitting threes in the initial twenty minutes of play making 7 of 13, and had the answers keeping Villanova at a distance. The latter twenty was the opposite as only 5 of 16 dropped from distance. Once Villanova took the lead, they stayed in front outscoring the opposition 51 – 37 in the second half.
The first year players needed to contribute. Collin Gillespie, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, and Jermaine Samuels had an opportunity to play meaningful minutes together. They trio totaled 49 minutes and contributed 9 points and 12 rebounds.
“They played really well,” Brunson said about the freshman. “Just for Jermaine (Samuels) coming out of his cast then having two big games. Collin (Gillespie) and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree are both doing great jobs at getting better. The growth is showing amongst all of them.”
Omari Spellman recorded his third straight double-double scoring 10 points and taking down a game-high 11 rebounds. Mikal Bridges added 10 points and handed out a team-leading 5 assists.
Villanova improves to 23 – 2, and let’s see what the polls say on Monday as to their ranking. The Wildcats are 10 – 2 in conference and travel to Providence on Wednesday.
Butler falls to 17 – 9, and are 7 – 6 in the Big East. The squads are 1 – 1 against each other. Will they meet at Madison Square Garden? Who knows, but this remains an intriguing match up.
“There’s so much respect in the program and that’s why it was a battle today because they fight to protect that streak as much as we do and so when you get out there it’s going to be great game,” said Butler Coach LaVall Jordan.
Written By: Glenn Papazian