INDIANAPOLIS, IN – The Butler Bulldogs, playing their first Big East Conference game of the year, couldn’t match the effort against the #6/5 Villanova Wildcats. Butler found itself battling from behind the entire game and wound up dropping a 67-55 decision to #6/5 Villanova in the BIG EAST opener for both teams on Wednesday, Dec. 31. The road game, which was part of the BIG EAST New Year’s Eve Tip-Off Marathon, left the Bulldogs at 10-4 on the season.
Villanova, one of just six remaining unbeaten teams in the nation, used a strong start to each half to gain control and hold off the visiting Bulldogs. The Wildcats (13-0) opened the game with an 8-2 run to grab an early advantage and then began the second half with a 9-2 run to build a double-digit lead.
“You have to give Villanova a lot of credit. (The Wildcats) were exceptional defensively, as we thought they would be. Jay (Wright) has a really good team and they are good on both ends. All their numbers would back that up,” said Butler Coach Chris Holtmann.
The defending BIG EAST champions scored the first four points of the game and then added four more after junior guard Kellen Dunham hit a jumper to get the Bulldogs on the board.
Butler did manage to tie the game at 8-8 on a three-point field goal by forward Austin Etherington, but the Wildcats responded with eight unanswered points to take the lead for good. The Bulldogs closed to within two points, 34-32, on a lay-up by Andrew Chrabascz late in the first period and trailed by just four points at halftime, 36-32.
That would be as close as Butler would get the rest of the game.
Villanova extended its lead with its early run to start the second half, and then built on the margin behind a versatile offense and a stingy defense. The Bulldogs managed just three field goals and nine points in the first 14 minutes of the final period, while falling behind by as many as 15 points.
The Wildcats eventually took the lead to 16 points late in the game, before Butler trimmed the final margin.
“We did not start the second half well at all,” stated Holtmann. “They have a lot of weapons, obviously. They have a lot of different guys who can pop up and make threes. This is not a team where you can key on one or two guys.”
“I give our guys credit that we were able to stay within reach, but we certainly need to do some things better to be able to win on the road against an elite team.”
Senior guard Alex Barlow, who matched his career-high with four three-point field goals, and Chrabascz led the Bulldogs with 12 points apiece, while Dunham added a season-low 10 points. Junior guard Roosevelt Jones finished with eight points and a team-high nine rebounds.
The balanced Wildcats were led by guard Ryan Arcidiacono with 15 points, while forward JayVaughn Pinkston added 13, nine of which came in the first half. Kris Jenkins came off the bench with 11 points and center Daniel Ochefu added 10 points and nine rebounds.
The Bulldogs continue their rugged, BIG EAST-opening road trip with a visit to #15/17 St. John’s on Saturday, Jan. 3. That game is scheduled for 4 p.m. (ET).
Chris Fultz is a senior writer for the Indiana Sports Report and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by Butler Athletics and has full media access. Follow @CafultzISR and the @IndySportsRep on Twitter
Chris Fultz is a Senior Writer and the Butler Athletics beat writer for the Indiana Sports Report. Chris Fultz is recognized as an accredited member of the media by Butler University Athletics and has full media access.
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