Villanova completed the regular season series sweep of Butler, handing the Bulldogs another beatdown. Hinkle Magic didn’t seem to be a factor this time around, as the ‘Cats won in comfortable fashion, 78-59, in their final game of the regular season.
“Good win for us, in a team that’s tough for us to play,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “They’re similar to us in their style of play. They’re banged up, not having Bolden for them is big, he can really get buckets for them. We’re starting to get healthy. We had Moore and Gillespie get two days of practice in which we haven’t had in two and a half weeks. I think that showed today that we were a lot more connected because of having those guys in practice for a couple of days.”
The ‘Cats won just about every aspect of the game and got off to a strong start. The first six minutes of the game were a little muddy and neither team had any flow on offense with Villanova holding an 8-3 lead early.
An inbound play where Chris Arcidiacono passed to Collin Gillespie, then Gillespie found Arcidiacono right back for an easy layup began a 26-12 run for Villanova.
Caleb Daniels and Jermaine Samuels, both made it a point to attack the paint and finish at the rim early in this run for Villanova. Jermaine Samuels was 5 of 8 from the field in the first half including 4 of 6 from inside the arc. Brandon Slater also had a few nice drives early.
“It’s important, they’re a big part of what we do,” Wright said. “It helps when they can get to the rim when Butler takes away looks from three and Butler has done a good job in taking those looks away from us. It’s not just getting to the rim; it’s making the right decisions when you get there.”
The ‘Cats also shot the ball well from distance in the first half, going 6 of 13 from 3-point range. Jordan Longino saw extended minutes for the first time since the final game in January against St. John’s. He made the most of the opportunity finishing with 10 points and seven rebounds. He used a quick trigger to knock down back-to-back 3-pointers with just under 11 minutes to go in the first half.
Butler showed some signs of fight thanks to their young guards, Chuck Harris and Jayden Taylor. Jayden Taylor sandwiched two nice layups around a good defensive effort in which he stayed in front of Caleb Daniels, cut off his driving lane and forced Daniels to give it up. Harris knocked down a pull up jumper then grabbed a rebound that led to him making a nice baseline layup. Right after the layup, Harris drew a charge on Gillespie and the Butler fans erupted.
This mini 9-4 run helped Butler inch their way from being 19 down to just 14, trailing Villanova 38-24 at the half.
Butler tried to hang around the best they could with only a -3 differential through the first five minutes of the second half. 47-30 was the closest they would get the rest of the afternoon. Villanova used good shooting by Gillespie, Brandon Slater, and Daniels for a 13-2 run to get up by almost 30 at 60-32 with nine and a half minutes left to play.
Justin Moore led the way for the Wildcats with 16 points and hit multiple tough jumpers with a hand in his face.
“It was important to get off to a good start here, I don’t think we’ve shot the ball well here many times but usually that’s because we’re playing against a team that’s a great defensive team,” Wright said. “I thought some of the ones we hit early were some tough ones. Justin hit a couple step backs, that’s what you need when you play on the road. You need big time players to just make tough shots.”
Jermaine Samuels had 15 points and was a force in the paint. Collin Gillespie and Caleb Daniels each had 11 points.
Chuck Harris paced Butler with 19 points on a great 7 of 13 shooting effort, and Bo Hodges chipped in 12.
Villanova will head to Madison Square Garden next week for the Big East Tournament. The Wildcats finish the regular season at 23-7, and 16-4 in conference play.
“As special as it is playing at Madison Square Garden as a player, as a program you have to lock into 94 by 50 feet,” Samuels said. “It’s a special time of the year but we have to take it one game at a time and focus on what’s in front of us. It’s the only thing we can control and be ready when an opportunity comes.”