It was senior day at the Pavilion for Daniel Ochefu and four year starter Ryan Arcidiacono as well as bench mob members Kevin Rafferty, Henry Lowe, and Patrick Farrell.
Coach Wright said, "we have five really great seniors who just make sure we do what we're supposed to do. We're really fortunate that way."
The first points of this senior day were on a layup by Daniel Ochefu, and Arcidiacono's first points were by a three five minutes into the game to give the 'Cats a quick 7-4 advantage.
Arch would finish with only 9 points but did an excellent job finding the open man and finished with 9 assists. He also called today, "something I'll never forget. I'll cherish it and I'm glad we were able to come out with a win."
A five minute scoring drought by Butler was ended by a Kellen Dunham three but the 'Cats strong defense held the Bulldogs to hitting one of their last eight field goals. A great pass from Josh Hart out of a double team to a cutting Arch put the 'Cats up seven, ten minutes into the game.
'Nova's defense was solid through the first 12 minutes but senior guard Kellen Dunham was feeling it, he had 9 of Butler's first 12 points at the under eight timeout. A quick 7-0 run by the Bulldogs gave them their first lead at 17-16.
The 'Cats responded strongly to the deficit, going on a 9-0 run of their own and expanded the lead to 11 after a Josh Hart steal and slam.
The teams traded baskets for the remainder of the first half and a Kelan Martin three at the buzzer cut Villanova's lead to 34-25.
Ochefu picked up his third foul of the game and Andrew Chrabascz knocked down both free throws which along with a two and a half minute scoring drought for the 'Cats added up to a 9-2 run for Butler, and the lead was only two. A Kelan Martin three gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the second half but a Hart three followed by a Brunson steal and layup gave 'Nova the lead again.
Butler head coach Chris Holtmann said, "I thought the zone was really good for us. We got a lot of stops in it but they just made a couple of consecutive three's, that happens."
Butler responded with an 8-0 run and made the lead four, but a Phil Booth jumper followed by Kris Jenkins being fouled on a three, and making all three gave 'Nova back the lead 46-45. Ochefu picked up his fourth foul with 9:36 left in the game but 'Nova's next 16 points came from Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart, putting the 'Cats up 59-51 with seven minutes left.
Jay Wright said, "Just a typical Villanova-Butler game, they match up well, they're really good." On the slow start to the second half he added, "We just came out a little sluggish, we weren't aggressive defensively, they got us stagnant offensively. They backed off and said go ahead, shoot it and we did and we missed."
Josh Hart finished with yet another double-double, piling up 22 points and 12 rebounds. Kris Jenkins finished with 20 points, 6 boards, and 2 assists.
'Nova amped up the defense again, and Butler made 1 of their last 7 field goals over a three minute stretch to seal the game and come out with a 77-67 victory.
Holtmann also said, "they're an elite team, and anyone who challenges that hasn't watched them play the entire year. I don't care what anybody says about what's happened in the past in the tournament, they're an elite team."
The Wildcats next game is Wednesday night at Xavier at 7 P.M. on FS1 in which should be a matchup of top 5 teams. Looking to next week Josh said, "that's going to be a battle, the last couple years its been tough going down there. We have to remain focused, keep getting better, and just play Villanova basketball."