The Villanova Wildcats (13-0, 1-0) used their typically balanced offense to down the Butler Bulldogs 67-55 in the Big East opener at The Pavilion at Villanova University.
Ryan Arcidiacono led the Wildcats with 15 points and 5 assists and JayVaughn Pinkston had 13 points, while Daniel Ochefu had 10 points and 9 rebounds and Kris Jenkins chipped in 11 of his own.
For Butler (10-4, 0-1) Alex Barlow and Andrew Chrabascz each had 12.
The Villanova Wildcats jumped out to a strong 16-8 lead at the second TV timeout after the Butler Bulldogs tied it early at 8-8. In typical Villanova style their defense didn't start taking effect until about six minutes into the match. Kameron Woods got into some early foul trouble picking up his second foul only three minutes into the game. This allowed Villanova to play small early on and get JayVaughn Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu some early rest.
The Big East foes went into the half with Villanova winning by a score of 36-32. For the Bulldogs, their ability to outrebound Villanova by an 8-1 margin on the offensive glass was the key to staying close. The Bulldogs were led by Andrew Chrabascz with eight at the half. The Wildcats were led in scoring at the half by Pinkston with nine, and Villanova rode hot shooting (58% from the field) to the halftime lead.
Coming out of the half the Wildcats really turned up the heat, opening with a 7-0 run. The Wildcats opened it up to lead of 52-38 halfway through the second frame. The Wildcats did an excellent job of contesting every Butler shot early in the second. Villanova, who held a size advantage at every spot on the floor, blocked 9 Bulldog shots and outblocked Butler 9-2.
The Bulldogs hung around, never letting the lead go past 16, but never really challenged as the Wildcats closed out a 12-point win at home to open the Big East season.
Here are three things we learned from 'Nova's win:
1. Villanova needs a windex man
As my fellow Villanova writer Eric Kelly pointed out, Villanova continues to have woes on the boards, losing the rebound battle 40-29 and giving up 17 of those in the form of offensive boards. This is a 20 point blowout if Villanova gives up less on their defensive end.
2. Butler has the ability to be a quality team
Butler's biggest failures were in the execution of their offense. They succumbed to traps and pressure too many times, coughing up 17 turnovers. Furthermore, they didn't look to pass out enough from the low block. They did show the ability to knock down some threes on swings and kickouts. They've got the shooters but they need a little more maturity from their frontcourt. Kameron Woods never got to contribute because of foul trouble and Roosevelt Jones seemed to be trying a little too hard as he was always forcing shots through a lot of traffic. He seemed to want to pick up all the slack from Woods's absence which wasn't practicable. Jones finished with 8 points on 4-of-11 shooting and pulled in 9 boards. If Woods was physically in the game and Jones's head was in the game the Bulldogs would have been into this to the end.
Chris Holtmann's team used their rebounding to stick around all game. They never really went away as they continued to compete despite being outmatched physically by the undefeated Wildcats.
3. Defense, Defense, Defense
Butler could not get a good look at the basket all game. Villanova's length, quickness and execution on defense was just too much. On the flipside, with Kameron Woods getting into foul trouble, Butler could not stop Villanova's bigs from getting at the basket. Ochefu and Pinkston certainly could have dropped more than the 23 for which they combined if Jay Wright had called on them. In additon, Villanova's 9 blocks shows they are ready to set the bar in terms of being the definition of a Big East Conference defense.
This win ties the Wildcat's best start ever at 13-0. Things won't get much easier for either team as Villanova takes on a Seton Hall team that just beat the No. 15 St. John's Red Storm on Saturday at Noon at The Rock. Butler follows the Wildcats to New York to take on a hungry St. John's team who just got smoked by the Pirates at 4 p.m. on Saturday.