Butler vs Villanova
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, New York
NEW YORK – No. 3 Villanova continues to shine on the offensive end of the court, but its next opponent is one of the few teams that has proven capable of outscoring the Wildcats. The Big East Tournament continues Friday at Madison Square Garden, where the second-seeded Wildcats will face sixth-seeded Butler in the rubber match with a spot in the tourney final on the line.
In the first meeting between the teams this season on Dec. 30, Butler knocked off Villanova 101-93 – easily the most points scored against the Wildcats this season. Villanova got its revenge in the second meeting on Feb. 10, notching an 86-75 victory as Donte DiVincenzo scored a career-high 30 points and Jalen Brunson, the potential National Player of the Year, added 27. The third meeting came to fruition late Thursday night, when Butler advanced past Seton Hall on a late tip-in by Tyler Wideman. Villanova had advanced earlier in the evening with a 94-70 victory against Marquette.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1
ABOUT BUTLER (20-12): The Bulldogs on Thursday overcame a subpar outing by top scorer Kelan Martin, who missed 13 of his 20 shot attempts and went 1-of-8 beyond the arc, not to mention 2-of-5 from the foul line – uncharacteristic for an 85.8 percent foul shooter. Kamar Baldwin registered 32 points and shot 12-of-20 – a vast improvement for a player who had shot a combined 10-of-36 over the previous three outings. Wideman has scored at least 10 points in four of the six games, whereas he had previously reached double digits only twice in the previous 12 games.
ABOUT VILLANOVA (28-4): Villanova likely has locked up a No. 1 seed in next week’s NCAA Tournament but can continue to solidify that position with more wins at this event. Mikal Bridges (25 points) and Brunson (21) led the way Thursday as the Wildcats shot well from the field (56.9 percent), the 3-point line (15-of-29) and the foul line (13-of-17). Four of the five starters made at least three 3-pointers, with Bridges making at least three for the sixth straight game.
1. Villanova averages 87.4 points – tops in the nation – and has scored at least 90 in four of the last six games.
2. Jay Wright became Villanova’s all-time winningest coach with his 414th career victory Thursday.
3. The winner of this game will face either No. 1 seed Xavier or fifth-seeded Providence in Saturday’s title game.