The reports of Villanova’s demise are greatly exaggerated. After a shaky start to the season that had many people asking questions, Nova has now improved to 6-0 in BIG EAST play. On Tuesday, they did something they failed to do in each of the last two seasons—win at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Wildcats ran away from Butler in the second half and finished with a 80-72 victory.
Both teams played a very clean first half, combining for just three turnovers. Eric Paschall carried Villanova, knocking down four triples and scoring 14 points and Phil Booth came alive at the end of the half. Butler’s balanced scoring attack matched Villanova’s stars step-for-step and the Wildcats led just 41-39 at the break.
In the second half, the game got away from Butler in just a two and a half minute stretch in which Collin Gillespie made three straight three-pointers for Villanova without Butler scoring once. Gillespie only scored 11 on the night, but those nine consecutive points gave Villanova an 11-point cushion with 14 minutes remaining.
The closest Butler got after that was a five-point deficit with just under nine minutes remaining, but then the Bulldogs uncharacteristically turned the ball over three times in a row and Nova managed to score off every one of them, expanding the lead back out to 11 and all but finishing Butler.
Paschall finished with 23 and Booth scored 17. The bright spot for Butler was Aaron Thompson who had 15 points and four assists. Butler drops to 3-4 in conference play while Villanova pulls further and further away from the BIG EAST field (with the exception of Marquette).
Villanova next plays Seton Hall on Sunday, January 27 @ 2:30 p.m. ET
Butler next plays at Creighton on Friday, January 25 @ 8:30 p.m. ET
Butler has nobody to rely on
Butler has been very inconsistent as a team this year, and the reason for this is becoming clearer—all of Butler’s individual players have been inconsistent as well. Kamar Baldwin scored 30 against St. John’s, but had just 11 on Tuesday. LaVall Jordan never knows what he’s going to get out of Jordan Tucker and Paul Jorgensen. When the Bulldogs control a game from the tip, they are often able to crush the opponent with tough defense and good ball movement. But when the Bulldogs get behind, they don’t have a Kelan Martin or a Roosevelt Jones to go to again and again.
Villanova is good
Villanova is good. The Wildcats left Butler almost no room for error. The Bulldogs actually played a solid game, but just a few defensive lapses and some crucial turnovers turned into a double-digit deficit. Villanova has a knack for capitalizing on opponents’ miscues, and its two stars, Booth and Paschall, are adequately supported by players like Gillespie. I never thought I’d say this at the beginning of this season, but Villanova may actually have a better conference record this year than last year’s 14-4 effort.