Villanova picked up their fourth loss of the season in a 73-61 defeat to Butler to fall to 15-4 on the season and 10-3 in Big East play. Hinkle Fieldhouse is becoming somewhat of a nightmare location for the Wildcats, this game marking the second consecutive loss in the arena over the past two seasons. The loss leaves Villanova winless on the road during February, including lapses against St. John’s and Creighton.
Sophomore forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl tallied 16 points, 16 rebounds, one block, and a steal in the losing effort. Senior guard Collin Gillespie added 14 points and five rebounds.
Butler’s Chuck Harris led all scorers with 20 points to go with five rebounds and four assists.
Justin Moore opened the scoring for the Wildcats in what started as a back-and-forth first 10 minutes. The two Big East rivals exchanged blows with neither side gaining any significant advantage. A three-minute scoring drought embodied Villanova’s scoring effort during the first half. Gillespie scored 10 of his points during the opening period, but the ‘Cats managed a measly 24 points in the first 20 minutes.
Villanova converted only one of their first nine three-point attempts, struggling to find a rhythm from beyond the arc. The Bulldogs found their groove with around five minutes remaining in the half, reeling off a 10-0 run to set up a 34-24 lead at the break.
The Wildcats came out of the locker room looking to cut into the Butler lead. A Cole Swider three-pointer followed by a layup from Moore sliced the halftime lead to five as the ‘Cats trailed 37-42 at the 14:14 mark. The Bulldogs bit back with a 12-2 run over the next three minutes, digging Villanova into a hole from which they would never recover.
Butler kept the Wildcats at arm’s length during the dying minutes of the games, staving off every Villanova comeback attempt. The ‘Cats cut the Bulldog lead to eight with over three minutes left, but back-to-back three-pointers silenced any hopes of a Villanova victory.
Villanova made just one three-pointer in the second half, putting their total for the game at two for 27 (7.4%). Although the Wildcats forced 11 turnovers from their opponents, they could only convert those opportunities into five points on the other end. Villanova’s poor shooting from deep and overall offensive inefficiency allowed Butler to repay their 85-66 thrashing earlier in the year.
Jay Wright will need his team to bounce back from their third conference loss of the season as they prepare for one of the biggest games of the season against Creighton. Villanova’s next game against the Bluejays is scheduled for Wednesday, March 3 at 8:30.