In arguably one of the biggest nail-biters of the season thus far, the No. 18 Butler Bulldogs defeated No. 1 Villanova 66-58.
Hinkle Fieldhouse played host to the stunning upset of the Wildcats, and Indianapolis absolutely lit up for their chance to target the top-seeded throne.
In the first half, ‘Nova kept their poise despite BU consistently biting at their heels. They were quick to drive into the paint, and Kris Jenkins sprinkled the half with 3-pointers. The ‘Dawgs experienced minutes of shooting stagnation, but their drought was effectively ended up by an injection of vitality by Kethan Savage and Andrew Chrabascz.
Near the final minutes of the first half, ‘Nova fell into its own shooting void and was revived by the relentless efforts of Jenkins and Jalen Brunson. Brunson attempted to secure ‘Nova’s lead into halftime with six points, but a jumper by Kamar Baldwin kept Butler close on the scoreboard 31-27.
The arrival of the second half brought with it a forceful Butler offense. The ‘Cats continued to maintain a fragile lead, but the Bulldogs were consistently quick with their responses. Josh Hart, ‘Nova’s typical shooting stalwart, had an uncharacteristically quiet night, scoring only 13 points. In Hart’s absence, Brunson commandeered the lead for Wildcat shooting, netting 23 points.
Despite Brunson’s overdrive effort, Villanova simply couldn’t control the growing ebb of Butler’s momentum. Chrabascz’s layup tied the game at 47-47, signaling the beginning of Wildcat defeat.
Hart responded with a strong drive to the bucket and a free throw, but Kethan Savage unleashed baskets of his own. Accompanied by Kelan Martin, and an impressive steal by Baldwin from Hart in the final minutes, Butler played to victory with patience and persistence.
Villanova made only 37 percent of their field goals, while Butler scored 45 percent of their field goals. Butler further outperformed Villanova at the three-point line, making 25 percent of 3-point FGs compared to ‘Nova’s 23 percent. In the paint, Villanova edged out 26 points versus Butler’s 22 points. The Bulldogs’ iciness at the free throw line (100 percent; making 15-15) was ultimately critical in solidifying Butler’s victory.
For having never have beaten Villanova before, Butler picked quite the time to do so. The Bulldogs ended a seven-game winning streak for the Wildcats over the ‘Dawgs, and halted ‘Nova’s unbeaten streak to 20 games.
Big East action continues this Saturday, with Butler playing Georgetown in D.C. and Villanova meeting Marquette at The Pavilion.