If Jair Bolden had stayed hot for 40 minutes, the Bulldogs might have had a chance.
On Wednesday, Butler battled Villanova early on the back of some hot shooting from Bolden, but the South Carolina transfer cooled off and Nova took control, eventually cruising to an 85-66. victory. Collin Gillespie and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl led the way with 18 points apiece and the Wildcats dominated the turnover battle, 15-6.
Bolden scored 13 points in the first 5:05 of action, including three three-pointers, the last of which gave Butler a 17-10 lead. Villanova battled back, however, taking the lead less than five minutes later. From that point on, Butler forced one tie but never reclaimed the lead.
The Wildcats began to pull away with 11:29 left in the second half, taking a nine-point lead on a Cole Swider triple. The Bulldogs managed to keep the lead around 10 until Aaron Thompson, who had 14 points and six assists, went down with a scary knee injury. With Thompson sidelined, Villanova began to pour it on, outscoring Butler 13-3 in the final minutes to win, 85-66.
The Wildcats showed why they are the early favorite to win the BIG EAST, demonstrating excellent passing, stout defense, and team rebounding. They put on a clinic offensively, generating good looks almost every time down the floor and getting to the free throw line often where they shot a respectable 77%.
Meanwhile, for Butler, the most noteworthy part of the game was Thompson’s injury. Thompson is not only the Dawgs’ best player, but their leader on the floor. Coach Jordan and his squad, who were also without Bryce Golden in this one, are hoping the injury isn’t serious.
Villanova: Balanced offense
Villanova continues to shine on the offensive side of the ball, passing well and bringing a balanced scoring attack that is difficult to stop. An impressive stat from this game is that each of the Villanova starters had at least two assists. Four of the five starters scored in double figures and the fifth, Caleb Daniels, scored eight. The Wildcats may not have an unstoppable scorer (though Robinson-Earl is showing glimpses of that), but as long as they keep executing and sharing the ball, they’re going to pick teams apart.
Butler: Ahead of the curve
Odd that this could ever be said after a 19-point loss, but Butler’s coaching staff has to be pleased with how the game went, apart from the Thompson injury. The four freshman that took the court for the Dawgs acquitted themselves well; Chuck Harris had 12 points and Myles Wilmoth had a perfect shooting night while scoring seven and pulling down five boards. Thompson played like a star for the second straight game and Jair Bolden displayed an impressive shooting stroke. Butler’s biggest challenges were down low, which was to be expected with Golden sidelined. Overall, this was an encouraging performance by the Dawgs.
Butler plays Indiana on Saturday, December 19 at 11:30 a.m. ET.
Villanova TBD after Saturday game with Virginia canceled.