Today’s game at Wells Fargo, Wildcats vs Bulldogs, with 20,000 in attendance. A sellout worth the chatter as DiVincenzo finishes with a career-high 30 points to leading Villanova 23-2, while 10-2 in Big East.
Today had two outlooks concerning the final outcome.
One. Were the Wildcats about to bounce back to prove they’re No. 1 for a reason? Two. Were the Bulldogs going to keep it close with the Cats... or even pull off a season sweep?
A slow start lead to a fired up Nova Nation in this afternoon’s game. The Butler Bulldogs tipped off today’s game providing themselves with strong headway.
Butler recognized a weakness of the Cats after their last St John’s matchup, as the Cats fell behind early on Wednesday, pushing them to chase throughout the entirety of the game. The Bulldogs knew jumping on the Cats and pushing an early lead from the tip-off, would give them the advantage.
Proving the type of early lead the Bulldogs sought for on the Cats, the Bulldogs lead the Cats with it’s first 10 points provided by two key players Kelan Martin (5) and Kamar Baldwin (5).
The Cats were chasing from the beginning.
However, the Cats did more than pull the trigger in second half taking the lead, refusing to go down in a battle that would provide as de ja vu of Wednesday’s St. John’s game. They made the crucial adjustments that were needed...that led Donte DiVincenzo to hit a career high of 30 points today.
Coach Wright says “You guys are going to think I'm crazy...I know DiVincenzo hit a career high today, but the kid also played his best defensive game of the year.”
DiVincenzo’s previous best was 25 total points vs. St. John’s, that recently took place on on January 13th.
To aid DiVincenzo dominating the scoreboard was Jalen Brunson. Brunson had 27 points on the board today while in two games this week he averaged a sturdy 27.5. While on the other hand, Martin is getting the job done for Butler averaging 20.3 ppg. Today, he averaged 8-of-12 from the 3-point range.
Coach Wright says “Martin’s really got the entire package for them. He leads them on the scoreboard...but also with a certain confidence.”
Now to expand on today's key players from Villanova, what was crucial in starting the pull of the trigger for a comeback was when there led to be 6 seconds left on the clock in the first half. Clutch of a freshman Collin Gillespie, came in to nail a 3...narrowing the scoring gap to just 3 points.
The Cats were coming back after a solid start by Butler. The score at the half led to be 35- 38, Butler.
At the half, there were 13 points now for Brunson, but it was Martin’s 17 points that helped keep Butler in front at 38-35 in favor of the Bulldogs.
The second half was underway for the Cats to make a comeback. It was a game too close of comfort. Wildcats returned their five starters to open the second half, including Gillespie, who made his first collegiate start today. Gillespie proves himself every game to be a true freshman on the court for the Cats, being a curcial component making up for the several injuries that remain on Villanova’s sidelines.
To aid to the Cat’s lineup of clutch freshman, some key contributions were coming from freshman Jermaine Samuels. He held a season high five rebounds to go with two points at the start of the second.
Brunson says, “Jermaine coming off the bench hot from an injury is amazing. He’s getting better everyday and it’s showing everytime he’s put in the game. He’s only practiced about twice and he still comes in with confidence.”
Omari Spellman, another proven true freshman, had an astounding 11 rebounds that aided to the success tonight.
The key tonight for the Wildcats tonight was playing a lot of zone defense, especially throughout the second half, while having a lot of injuries on the sidelines. With that being said, the three freshman stepped to the plate proving nothing but keeping it simple and playing Villanova Basketball.
Wright said, “For our 3 freshman to run the middle of the zone like they… that’s incredible. They got the win tonight. The three freshman in the zone...Gillespie, Jermaine, Omari, did a hell of a job.”
Again without the services of Eric Paschall and Phil Booth, the Wildcats needed an all-around better effort from the team today to come away with the win...which they executed with precision.
Even though Martin stood out from the Bulldogs today leading them from the scoreboard with 30 points, thus followed by Kamar Baldwin with 25 points, the Wildcats sustained to limit Butler to 12-of-35 (.343) shooting in the second half today.
Martin provided as a weapon on the boards, while Baldwin provided as a two-way presence who would probably be seen as the most proven, versatile player for the Bulldogs.
Baldwin says, “The player that stood out was DiVincenzo. He lead the team in turning up the energy in the second half” while Martin closed on his statement “...as a whole, they chipped away, and made some tough shots as well.”
In the second half, DiVincenzo proved to be prominent as he played the top of zone, kept people in front of him, and stayed in there while keeping most of the balls alive.
Butler’s head coach LaVall Jordan says ”DiVincenzo, compared to last game, put up a lot of shots today...looking back, today he had an energy that carried his team from the start of the game.”
20 of DiVincenzo’s points were in the second half alone! DiVincenzo went on to play all 40 minutes of the game. Not to mention, it’s the 16th straight game in double figures for the redshirt sophomore.
Going into this afternoon’s game at the Wells Fargo Center, Villanova was seen to have an close to a 900% chance of winning. Both teams were heading on the court today coming off of some upsetting losses, and proved to be hungry for their next victory, but tonight, the Cats proved to be especially hungry as the Nova Nation knows it’s rare to see Villanova get beat twice in a row on the court.
Our men’s team along with Coach Jay Wright, as we all know, doesn’t like to lose, especially in back-to-back games. They haven’t lost back-to-back games since 2013! The Nova Nation has confidence that the ‘Cats always bounce back extremely well.
Of course, the Cats came out on top today! The final score of today’s game led to be 86-75.
After four straight at home, the Cats will look to keep up the intensity at Providence against the Friars, this Wednesday at 7:00pm EST.