Where: The Pavilion, Villanova, Penn
VILLANOVA, Penn – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) – Butler’s formula for sweeping Villanova and ending its 48-game home winning streak was simple.”Our guys got in a rhythm and made some open shots,” said Butler coach Chris Holtmann after a stunning 74-66 victory Wednesday night at The Pavilion.
Kelan Martin had 22 points and eight rebounds, Kamar Baldwin added 15 and No. 22 Butler upset second-ranked Villanova. Avery Woodson contributed 13 points for the Bulldogs (22-6, 11-5 Big East). Andrew Chrabascz also had a terrific all-around game with four points, seven rebounds and eight assists. Butler shot 27 of 53 (50.9 percent) and knocked down 7 of 13 from beyond the arc in the second half for a rare sweep against the defending national champions.
“I thought our guys played loose and free,” Holtmann said. “We were able to make shots.”
The victory also temporarily halted the Wildcats’ chance of clinching a fourth consecutive Big East championship, at least temporarily. Butler won its third game in a row and also was victorious for the first time in four career attempts at The Pavilion.
“I came to Butler for games like this,” said Woodson, a senior who transferred from Memphis. “I had a special vibe this morning when I woke up.”
Jalen Brunson led Villanova (26-3, 13-3) with 24 points while Josh Hart scored 18. Villanova played without senior forward Darryl Reynolds, who missed his fourth consecutive game with a rib injury. Senior sharpshooter Kris Jenkins was held to eight points on 1-of-8 from the field. The senior class of Hart, Jenkins and Reynolds had never lost in this arena.
“Right now, this stings,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “We’ll come back tomorrow and go to work.”
The Wildcats went with a six-man rotation for the most part with deep reserve Dylan Painter playing sparingly.
Villanova had its seven-game winning streak snapped and dropped a game in The Pavilion for the first time since a three-point loss to Providence on Feb. 3, 2013.
“When you lose, it’s a tough pill to swallow no matter what,” Hart said. “It always stings a little bit. It’s over now. All we can do now is learn from it.”
Villanova pulled ahead 46-39 on a layup by Mikal Bridges with 12:08 remaining.
The Bulldogs battled back in a large way to take a 51-49 advantage on a layup by Savage with 7:14 left. On their next possession, Chrabascz hit a short bank shot for a 53-49 lead.
After Donte DiVincenzo missed a layup, Nate Fowler’s basket then extended the lead to six and Martin followed with a layup for a 57-49 advantage. Martin would hit a long 3-pointer to cap an amazing 18-0 run for a 60-49 lead.
It was enough to propel Butler to the stunning road win despite a late flurry from the Wildcats to make it close.
“It’s a significant regular-season win for our program to beat a top two team on the road,” Holtmann said.
Villanova started slow, missed its first six shots and trailed 8-0. Even after misfiring on 11 of their first 13 shots, the Wildcats only fell behind, 11-7. As it has all season, Villanova played strong defense and managed to tie the game at 24 on a putback by DiVincenzo. Brunson’s driving layup in the waning seconds actually gave the Wildcats a 29-28 lead heading into the locker room. Brunson led all scorers with 14 points while Baldwin paced Butler with 11. Villanova led at halftime even without Jenkins or Bridges scoring and 10 costly turnovers.
NOTES: Butler had never defeated Villanova until this season. … The Wildcats can still capture the Big East title with a win over Creighton on Saturday at The Pavilion. … Butler will remain on the road with another difficult matchup Sunday at Xavier. … The Bulldogs improved to 6-2 against ranked teams this season.