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Villanova vs. Butler final score: 'Cats ride Hilliard to victory, 68-65

It wasn't pretty, but the Wildcats opened up a 2-game lead in the Big East standings.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Ken Pomeroy called Villanova-Butler the "game of the day" on a Saturday slate featuring over 270 teams. The man sure knows what's up.

On a night where the classic Big East-style was alive and well, the Villanova Wildcats used a game-winning 3-pointer from Darrun Hilliard to extend their lead in the conference with a 68-65 win over the Butler Bulldogs at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Hilliard led all scorers with 31 points, and JayVaughn Pinkston added 12 for the Wildcats. Kellen Dunham and Alex Barlow led Butler with 19 points apiece.

With three minutes left, Ryan Arcidiacono's runner hit the rim as the shot clock expired, and the Bulldogs ran the other way, and Barlow hit a 3-pointer from the wing that gave Butler a 63-62 lead. A few possessions later, Jay Wright called a timeout with just 13 seconds on the shot clock, and 90 on the game clock.

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Surely he didn't draw it up as such, but Hilliard pump-faked and drew contact from Barlow in perfect Scottie Reynolds fashion. After hitting all three from the stripe, Nova forced a missed layup and a rushed 3-pointer from Barlow. Roosevelt Jones would tie the game up on a layup, but left Nova one shot.

Arch, who was scoreless on the night, was double-teamed at the top of the key, and found Hilliard to the right wing for his career-high eighth 3-pointer that proved to be the game-winner.

Jay Wright made an Animal House reference pregame about Ochefu's absence from the starting lineup, but it seemed like both schools' offenses were the ones on double secret probation early on in the contest.

Villanova was able to jump out to a 5-0 lead thanks to an Ennis floater and a Hilliard tre. They held Butler scoreless for over four minutes. Kellen Dunham was able to get a couple relatively open looks, but otherwise the Wildcat defense was stifling any Bulldog offense. Butler missed their first six shots before Chrabascz hit a running layup.

The teams combined to open 8 of 33 in the first 12 minutes, either proving that these truly are the top two defensive teams in the conference, or just being ugly on offense. I chose to believe in the defenses.

Hilliard was one of the lone standouts early on, hitting three times from behind the arc and grabbing five first-half rebounds on his way to 11 points at the break. Barlow led the Bulldogs through 20 minutes with eight points, and Woods added six rebounds.

As a team, Villanova out shot Butler 37 percent to 30, but the Bulldogs were hitting at a higher clip from deep (4-11 compared to 'Nova's 5-15). The Wildcats only committed three turnovers in the first half, and had six assists on 11 made field goals. They did not get to the free throw line at all.

Butler bolted out of the gates in the second half on the back of Dunham, who rattled home ten straight points for the Bulldogs to give them their first taste of the lead. Woods' and Chrabascz's continued ability to grab offensive rebounds helped lead to many second-chance points.

Meanwhile, Hilliard managed to continue to hit from deep while Ochefu looked a little lost down low and Pinkston continued to be a little less than dominant. The duo of Chef and Arch did not score until the 5:20 mark in the second half.

Chrabascz left the game for a brief period of time, but it didn't stop the Bulldogs from matching their first-half total in just 7 minutes in the second half. Villanova used a Hart 3-ball and a Jenkins post move to tie it up at 44. Hilliard continued his hot shooting to give Nova a lead that they would hold for a decent chunk of time. Back-and-forth free throws and post layups brought the score to 62-59 heading to the under-4 media timeout.