Perfect record ends for Villanova Wildcats following loss to Butler

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 30: Paul Jorgensen /

After winning 13 games in a row, Villanova’s perfect record has come to an end following a 101-93 loss to the Butler Bulldogs.

With a perfect season on the line, the Villanova Wildcats were up against a tough Butler team on the road, where last season, they happened to lose both meetings against the Bulldogs. With a record of 13-0 and winning their last three games by an average of 20.7 points, Villanova couldn’t have asked for more momentum. They were arguably the best team in the nation, but still had a lot to prove at the Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana.

For Butler, it seemed like the only way they would be able to contain Villanova’s high-powered offense would be to slow down the pace of the game, but the roles were reversed as the Bulldogs were right at home playing quick, transition basketball. In the opening minutes, the two teams went back and forth exchanging baskets, neither team gaining an edge on the other. With seven minutes remaining in the first half, Butler started to pull away with the lead, sinking three-straight 3-pointers to cap a 9-0 Bulldogs run.

The 9-0 run gave confidence to the underdogs, but it was still a tight game with the Wildcats answering each of Butler’s baskets. With three minutes remaining in the half, Butler was up 39-35 when they sank four miraculous 3-pointers, ending the half with a 53-45 lead.

During this Bulldog run, the Wildcats tried to counter, but couldn’t find any rhythm. They were looking for an easy way out, with quick shots and minimal ball movement. Villanova was only 32 percent from 3-point range versus Butler’s 59 percent from beyond the arc. Villanova was against the ropes, but they had been in this situation before. Against Tennessee, the Wildcats were down 17 before they were able to muster a comeback. And what were the odds that Butler would continue it’s 59 percent pace from 3-point range?

Butler opened the second half with that same energy, hitting a deep 3-point shot, confirming that they still had the hot hand. Villanova continued to play one-dimensional basketball, going for the quick first look opportunity instead of moving the ball around. The Butler offense was turning the Villanova defense inside out – picking and rolling to preferable matchups and moving the ball until the Wildcats got scrambled in their own double teams. In an effort to slow down the Bulldogs barrage of 3-point shots, Villanova did their best to close in quicker on defenders, rushing to players they’d left wide open, only to leave themselves susceptible to pump fakes and easy layups inside.

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With seven minutes remaining in the game, down 17, the Wildcats showed new life. Many teams would have thrown in the towel, but Jalen Brunson took charge of an admirable comeback. Villanova matched up better on defense, Omari Spellman pointed out over-eager teammates trying to jump passes, the Wildcats were playing better high pressure defense – forcing Butler to take tough shots or give the ball up completely, and then, Villanova went on their own 14-0 run that gave life to the Wildcats, providing them a second opportunity to win this game.

Unfortunately, it was too little too late, as Butler was able to fend off the Villanova comeback after Brunson missed crucial free throws in the waning minutes.

It was reassuring to see that the Wildcats didn’t give up when they were down 23 in the second half, as they continued to chip away at the Butler lead, even if it was too late, it still showed the great resilience in this team.

When down, it was the leaders of this team, Brunson and Spellman, that riled up the team to close in on the Bulldogs lead, but every player played their part. Eric Paschall was physical down low and hammered in 10 points in the second half. Mikal Bridges showed off his defensive skill-set getting three steals and one monster block in the second half.

Next: Villanova Basketball: Most Valuable Wildcat of the Year

The Wildcats were due for their first loss, it just looked like they could make it to Jan. 10 against the sixth ranked Xavier team. Up next, Villanova plays Marquette on Jan. 6. It’ll be interesting to see how the Wildcats perform coming off their first loss of the season and whether they can retain their No. 1 spot on the AP Top 25 poll.