February 28, 2021 –
The last time these teams played Villanova Wildcats came away with an 85 – 66 win at home over the Butler Bulldogs in December. That was after Butler was coming off a three week pause. This game was at the Hinkle Field House and the Bulldogs are an improved team as their freshman guards have grown into their roles. The result was a 73 – 61 win for Butler. Chuck Harris, a freshman, scored a game-high 20 points.
“Obviously, it’s a disappointing game for us, but credit goes to Butler,” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright. “Their guards just dominated the game. Golden and Nze did a good job, but it came from their guards, Bolden and Harris, we just couldn’t control them.”
Harris got going early. In the first half he scored 13 consecutive points. Fellow first year player Jair Bolden added a total of 15 points with three from deep.
But it was on defense where Butler made their statement limiting Villanova to a season-low 2 for 27 shooting from three-point range. Three Bulldogs registered more or equal made three-pointers than did the Wildcats. They did it by limiting open three-point shots.
“Their guys were doing a good job of staying on their line, staying with their man and making it tough, making us shoot tough two’s and making us shoot contested three’s,” Gillespie who scored 14 points said. They did a good job on the defensive end pressuring the ball, staying with guys off the ball, showing help, and made sure they got back.”
Overall Nova made 24 of 65 from the floor, 22 of 37 from inside the arc. Butler had a physical presence that contested the middle and still did not leave open three-point shots available to the Wildcats who could not find ways to score consistently.
“I thought we did get some good looks,” Wright said. “When you are a really good team you find ways on those nights you find other ways. You get to the foul line, get some offensive rebounds, play good defense. We just haven’t gotten there yet.”
The 61 point total by Cats is their second lowest offensive output of the season.
“Teams that get up in us and are physical, that’s bothered us,” said Wright. “They were in us, physical, and that bothered us.”
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl recorded his fourth double-double of the season getting 16 points and grabbing 16 rebounds, one shy of his career-high. While Justin Moore and Caleb Daniels added 10 points each.
Bryce Nze scored 12 points and pulled down 11 rebounds while handing out a team-best 5 assists. Bryce Golden contributed 13 points.
Butler converted half of their shots (27 of 54) and sank 10 of 24 from beyond the arc. The Bulldogs used a 14 – 4 run to take a 34 – 24 lead at halftime. The lead held until the Wildcats mounted a charge to get to within 42 – 37 on a Moore basket with a little more than 14 minutes on the clock. Butler answered with a 12 – 2 spurt to go out to their largest lead of 15 points with 10:40 to play. Again, Nova would cut into the lead, and a Robinson-Earl basket would bring his team to within 57 – 50 at the 6:13 mark. The Wildcats would get no closer.
“It was all on the defensive end tonight,” said Robinson-Earl.
Butler (9 – 13, 8 – 11) allowed Villanova to stay in relative reach by making only 9 of 20 free throw attempts.
#8/6 Villanova stands at 15 – 4 overall and 10 – 3 in the Big East. The Wildcats still sit atop the standings. Creighton will visit on March 3 in the last home game of the season for Nova. That game could decide the Big East regular season title.
Written By: Glenn Papazian