VILLANOVA, PA. 1/21/2020 – The #9 Villanova Wildcats extended their winning streak to five games with a hard fought 76 – 61 over the #13 Butler Bulldogs at the Finn. The Wildcats had five players score in double figures led by Jermaine Samuels with a team-high 20 points. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl recorded his 6th double-double of the season with 12 points and a career-high tying 14 rebounds. Villanova improves to 15 – 3 overall and 5 – 1 in the Big East. Butler has lost their last three in a row.
“That’s going to be the strength of our team is having multiple guys who can score and have balance,” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright. “We’ve needed that. We haven’t been great at that yet. We’ve had balance, but not consistently. That’s how we have to play.”
It was expected to be a difficult game for both. The Bulldogs had it a bit better of the going early. The Wildcats found their way, but it took over 8 minutes to get into double figures. The Cats clamped down on defense and extended out to a 36 – 26 lead at halftime.
“That was something we take pride in,” Wright said. “Our defense can be consistent, our defensive rebounding can be consistent. Making shots comes and goes.”
In the second half behind back to back three-pointers Saddiq Bey, who scored 14 points on 4 triples, gave the Cats a 17-point lead over the Dogs at 43 – 26.
Butler got rolling and went on a 19 – 6 run keyed by Kamar Baldwin who scored 10 points in the run on his way to a game-high 21 points. During the season Villanova has found a way to answer the opponents charges. Call it being mentally strong.
“We have good mental toughness, we really do,” said Wright. “We have our older guys have been through a lot. And our younger guys have good mental toughness.”
Over the next ten minutes the Bulldogs would muster only 10 points. This was the second lowest offensive output for Butler this season. Offensively, Nova got the advantage back to double figures as Samuels had six consecutive points to keep the Cats in front. This was his third consecutive game scoring in double digits.
“At the end of the day it’s about playing confident, going out there and make plays in the situation,” said Samuels.
Collin Gillespie added 14 points and 7 assists. Justin Moore scored 14 points, his first time in double figures over the previous four games.
Bryce Nze posted a double-double for the Bulldogs, his third this season, with 11 points and 12 rebounds. He also dished out 5 assists.
A four game homestand for Villanova ended. The team will head to Providence for a Saturday night game. Another test for a young and developing team.
Written By: Glenn Papazian