The 2018-19 team has often been unfairly criticized for not reaching the heights of the 2017-18 team. But tonight Jay Wright’s squad did something that his last two teams have not.
The ‘Cats won at Hinkle Fieldhouse 80-72 for their first win in Indianapolis in 1109 days.
Nova commanded the game from the tip implementing a three-fourths court press on defense along with early threes from Eric Paschall on his way to a team leading 23 point night.
There was no separation between the two teams early as junior guard Sean McDermott was able to keep the Dawgs close with his long range shooting.
That was until the Cats went on a 15-4 run to extend the lead to 33-25.
Villanova rode that scoring run into halftime with a 41-37 lead with 27 of those points from Phil Booth and Paschall.
Booth would finish the night with 18 points even with him never finding his stroke from deep. The senior leader did however lead the team in assists with five.
Butler came out firing in the second half with yet another three ball from McDermott who finished with 14 points on 50% shooting from deep. Center Nate Fowler followed up the trey with back to back layups to give the Dawgs a 44-43 lead.
That was the last time the Wildcats trailed for the rest of the night.
Villanova immediately countered with a three of their own by Saddiq Bey who contributed 10 points and seven rebounds as the ‘Cats began a 9-0 run of their own.
Collin Gillespie continued his progression as a shooter with 11 points, nine of which came from beyond the arch. That makes it 13 made threes in his last three games for the sophomore guard.
While Butler’s bench opened stronger than Nova’s, the Cats finished with a combined 17 points from Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree and Joe Cremo. The two seem to be adjusting nicely to their roles off the bench.
Another key for the ‘Cats was their strong defensively performance which limited Butler to only five foul shots in their own building while also forcing nine turnovers.
The win marks the seventh straight win for the Wildcats, their longest win streak of the season. Their triumph also allows the ‘Cats to keep their perch at the top of the Big East with a perfect 6-0 record in conference.
Villanova will look to ride their momentum into their next game on Sunday, January 27th at the Wells Fargo Center against the Seton Hall Pirates (12-7, 3-4). Tip-off is at 2:30pm.