Butler stuns No. 1 Villanova
INDIANAPOLIS — Recent history repeated itself.
For the second consecutive season, Butler knocked off No. 1 Villanova at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Both times the Wildcats came in undefeated.
On Saturday, the Bulldogs shot 68.2 percent in the second half in a 101-93 upset of the Wildcats in Big East action on Saturday.
Kelan Martin scored 24 points, hitting all four 3-point shots, and Paul Jorgensen added 23 to propel Butler. Jorgensen, a transfer from George Washington, hit 4 of 7 3-pointers.
The Bulldogs (12-3, 2-0 Big East), who led by as many as 23 points in the second half, held off a late rally by the Wildcats (13-1, 1-1). The closest Villanova got was six points — three times in the final two-plus minutes.
“I’m proud of the way these guys for maintained their togetherness,” said LaVall Jordan, a former Butler assistant coach and player in his first year as head coach. “They had a focus about them we hadn’t seen to this point. But we knew they had it in us.
“(Villanova) is well-coached and has a great program. You knew they wouldn’t quit. They kept fighting. But we got some fight in us too. It was great to see each and every guy step up. Our bench was tremendous and Hinkle was absolutely amazing.”
Kamar Baldwin added 19 points and had team highs of nine rebounds and seven assists for the Bulldogs, whose fans stormed the court after the victory.
Jalen Brunson was high for Villanova with 31 points on 12-of-21 shooting. Mikal Bridges chipped in with 21 for the Wildcats.
The Bulldogs made 15 of 22 3-point shots and shot 60 percent (36 of 60) overall.
“We want our guys to shoot threes with confidence and I think (Saturday) we did that,” Jordan said. “We moved the ball well. Twenty assists against those guys is a phenomenal number.”
The Wildcats shot 53.5 percent overall.
“They got into their offense much quicker than we got into a defensive mentality,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “They were cutting hard and we hadn’t transitioned yet to defense. We were there but we weren’t in a defensive mindset. No one has really done that to us. We’re not a great defensive team yet and this is the best offensive team yet we’ve played and it showed. They move the ball well. They’re intelligent. They’re unselfish.”
Butler shot 57.1 percent (20 of 35) in the first half to take a 53-45 lead at intermission.
Butler opened the second half with an 20-8 stretch to push the lead to 73-53 with 12:05 to go. The margin increased to 23 points with 10:24 remaining.
With Butler ahead 84-62, the Wildcats went on a 14-0 run to cut the lead to 84-76 with 5:05 left. Butler committed five turnovers in that stretch against the Wildcats’ pressure. Martin finally ended the scoreless streak with two free throws to push the lead to 86-76 with 4:13 to go.
Trailing 93-87, Brunson missed the front end of a one-and-one with 1:21 to go. Martin came back with a short jumper in the lane for a 95-87 lead and the Bulldogs held on.
“All season long we believed in one another and we knew it was going to click at some point,” Jorgensen said.
It was the third consecutive victory for the Bulldogs over Villanova. After upsetting then-No. 1 Villanova 66-58 on Jan. 4 last season, Butler followed it up by beating then-No. 2 Villanova 74-66 on Feb. 22.
Butler sank 10 of 17 first-half 3-pointers in the opening half. The Wildcats were 7 of 19 from 3-point range in the first half, finishing 12 of 35 on 3s.
The Wildcats are playing short-handed with two freshmen, Jermaine Samuels and Collin Gillespie, sidelined with injuries. The Wildcats had five players on the court for 31 or more minutes
“When you get down like this you have to have some composure to come back,” Wright said. “So we were trying to keep the older guys out there and I think they got tired. I got to trust the two guys we have a little more but we got down so quick. It wasn’t the game to give them opportunities.”
NOTES: Villanova F Jermaine Samuels, a freshman who had a career-high 11 points in Wednesday’s victory over DePaul, will be out indefinitely with a broken bone in his left hand. Samuels, who was averaging 6.5 minutes per game, likely suffered the injury late in the game. ... Butler F Kelan Martin has scored 20 points or more in seven of Butler’s last nine games... Jay Wright, who entered the game with 399 coaching victories at Villanova, goes for No. 400 against Marquette Jan. 6. ... Butler is 9-0 at home this season.