Well, we didn't expect a start like this, but the Villanova Wildcats finish off the Butler Bulldogs 76-73 in overtime. Butler's Kellen Dunham and JayVaughn Pinkston lead scoring with 22 point each.
Pinkston would score the first 4 points for the Wildcats. The Wildcats would not stretch to an early lead, however, as the first half saw 9 ties and 10 lead changes.
The first half was all but pretty for Villanova as Daniel Ochefu picked up two early fouls. James Bells would finish the first half with 0 points on 0-5 shooting. The team as a whole went 1-8 from behind the arc, however the 'Cats outscored the 'Dogs in the paint 24-8.
Butler's big scorers Dunham and Khyle Marshall sat out most of the first half with 2 fouls each, however freshman guard Elijah Brown made up for that loss with 13 points, 7 of which off free throws. His 13 led all scoring at the half.
Both teams struggled from behind the arc in half number 1 as neither shot north of 30%. At one stretch the 'Dogs missed 8 straight attempts. Free throws told another story, as Nova shot 80% and Butler 90%.
Ochefu responded to his first half absence with his layup with the foul, however a Villanova lane violation negated that. He then assisted to James Bell for a slam for Bell's first points of the game. He rips the ball away on Butler's next possession leading to his own turnaround layup. Bell also had a more effective second half, grabbing a key offensive rebound and a block on the other end.
The second half showed that big men lead to big baskets. I've been saying this for a while now, and it's proven effective here!
Butler's Dunham also forgave his first half lack of presence with a big 3 to cut the Villanova lead to 1 with 5:17 remaining in the second half. His fadeaway with 21.5 seconds to go tied the game up. The game-tying bucket was given from Fromm's big block on Pinkston with under a minute.
Similar to Villanova, Butler drove to the hoop to get some Wildcat's into foul trouble, and as stated, both team's great free throw shooting tonight meant no big leads were consistent. The Wildcat's saw a brief 7-point lead on back-to-back 3's from Josh Hart, however the efforts of Erik Fromm quickly erased the deficit.
The Wildcats seemed to have the game in the bag at the end of the second half, however a corner 3 by Brown followed by a jumper by Dunham on a mismatch forced OT. The 'Cats had the last possession and Pinkston got a good look down low, however his turnaround would not fall.
Inbounding seemed to be an issue for both teams. In one possession, Darrun Hilliard launched the ball too far down the court, turning it over. Then, at the end of OT with a 1-point lead, Hilliard forced a bounce pass to Arch who kicked it out of bounds, giving the ball to Butler with 13.8.
The Wildcats again seemed to the game sealed with 26 seconds in OT. The freshman Hart was fouled with a 3-point lead, meaning sinking at least 1 would push the lead to two turnovers with the shot clock off. However, the 65% free throw shooter missed both. With the Bulldog's having the ability to force a second OT, James Bell's defense came to the rescue as he forced the steal on Alex Barlow.
In OT, Ryan Arcidiacono hit a 3 and Darrun Hilliard had one of his 7 drives and draws of the game. Butler had two opportunities to get a lead with under 12 second left, but two jump balls gave the 'Cats the last laugh. To end the game, Butler heaved a ball down the court but Pinkston was able to grab it and let the clock expire.
The Wildcats look to play more effective in their next conference match, which will be Sunday against the Providence Friars. The Friars lost a heartbreaker today to the Seton Hall Pirates in double OT on their own turf. This game will be played in the Pavilion. The students will be happy to know that this is the only game they will be missing. It will air on Fox Sports 1.
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