Rushed Reactions: #6 Villanova 68, #18 Butler 65

Posted by Walker Carey on February 14th, 2015

Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday night’s game between Villanova and Butler in Indianapolis.

Three Key Takeaways.

Darrun Hillard (USA Today Images)

Darrun Hilliard Blew Up Butler on Saturday (USA Today Images)

  1. Darrun Hilliard picked a great night to turn in a career-best performance. Villanova’s leading scorer took his game to another level against Butler, finishing with a career-high 31 points on 9-of-16 shooting (8-of-13 from three) to go along with eight rebounds. Hilliard really got things going in the second half, as he hit 5-of-7 from three and 5-of-5 from the charity stripe in the game’s second stanza. He also showcased his knack for knocking down the big shot after Butler swingman Roosevelt Jones tied the game with 18 seconds to play. With teammate Ryan Arcidiacano double-teamed at the top of the key, Hilliard called for the ball from the right free throw line extended and drained a wide open three to give the Wildcats a 68-65 lead with just 1.2 seconds to play. At 23-2 on the season, Villanova is currently in the discussion for a potential #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. If the Wildcats can get similar performances from Hilliard for the remainder of their Big East slate, they could easily be on that top line when Selection Sunday arrives.
  2. Both teams were great defensively in the first half and great offensively in the second half. Throughout the first half, this game looked like it was going to be a slow-paced and physical slugfest. Villanova held a 27-22 lead at the break and neither team put up strong offensive numbers in the opening 20 minutes. It might have been their way of paying homage to the frigid conditions outside, but Villanova shot just 36.7 percent from the field while Butler made just 30.8 percent of its attempts. The offensive end of the court was much kinder to both teams in the second half with both teams topping 40 total points (Butler outscored Villanova 43-41 in the second half) and 50 percent shooting (Villanova shot 60 percent and Butler shot 56.5 percent). It was almost like the first half and second half were two completely different games. With that being said, it was clear as day that both Villanova and Butler have the ability to get it done on both ends of the court.
  3. Villanova pretty much locked up its second straight regular season Big East title with the victory. With Saturday evening’s victory, Villanova moved its Big East record to 10-2. That conference mark gives the Wildcats a two-game lead in the conference standings and the schedule the rest of the way is very favorable for Jay Wright’s squad. Villanova will go on the road three more times, but games at Marquette, Xavier and Creighton are certainly winnable. It is definitely reasonable to believe that the Wildcats will finish the regular season with a 29-2 overall record and a 16-2 mark in Big East play.

Player of the Game. Darrun Hilliard, Villanova. The senior guard entered Saturday’s action averaging 13.4 points per contest. If he had been held to that average, there is little chance that Villanova would have left Indianapolis with a victory. Luckily for the Wildcats, Hilliard turned in a career-best performance on a night where Arcidiacano and junior forward Daniel Ochefu were held to a combined two points. His 31 points topped his former career-high of 26 (versus Marquette last season) and his eight rebounds were a season-high.

The Environment in Hinkle Was New Big East Basketball at Its Best (USA Today Images)

The Environment in Hinkle Was New Big East Basketball at Its Best (USA Today Images)

Quotable.

  • “It is just an awesome basketball experience.” – Villanova coach Jay Wright, complimenting Hinkle Fieldhouse and its atmosphere.
  • “Butler forced us into isolation situations to see if we could make plays. They took so much away from us, but we figured it out with [Hilliard and senior forward JayVaughn Pinkston] there at the end of the game.” – Wright, acknowledging that Butler’s defensive tenacity disrupted his team’s offensive rhythm.
  • “We came into this game looking at it as a great opportunity. That is what it is all about for moments like these in a great environment against a great team.” – Hilliard, noting the significance of the win.
  • “It was obviously a tough one. A tough one to swallow. You have to give Villanova credit. Villanova made more plays tonight and was the better team tonight.” – Butler coach Chris Holtmann, expressing his disappointment.

Sights and Sounds. The atmosphere at Hinkle Fieldhouse was raucous all night. The 9,231 fans in attendance marked the largest figure of the season. Of those fans, almost all were dressed in white for the “Hinkle Whiteout.” In a game that had seven ties and eight lead changes, you could feel the tension in the building from the opening tip until the final buzzer. Saturday night was another reason why there are few college basketball environments comparable to Butler’s venerable old barn.

Wildcard. During a media timeout in the first half, a female participant in a shooting contest was proposed to by her boyfriend and she said yes. We usually just talk about college basketball here, but with it being Valentine’s Day, we thought this was worth noting as well. Good luck to the both of them.

Notable. On a night when Villanova frustrated Roosevelt Jones all night (he finished with just six points on 2-of-11 shooting), Butler guards Alex Barlow and Kellen Dunham stepped up to lead the offensive attack. Both the senior Barlow and the junior Dunham finished the night with a team-high 19 points.

What’s Next. Both teams have a quick turnaround and will be back in action on Monday night. Villanova will return home to battle slumping Seton Hall, and the Wildcats will have revenge on their minds, as they lost to the Pirates back in early January. Looking to get back on the winning track, Butler will begin a two-game road trip with a visit to Creighton. The Bulldogs defeated the Bluejays by three at Hinkle Fieldhouse on January 21.

WCarey (251 Posts)


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