Villanova Basketball: The Wildcats bounces back against Butler

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Donte DiVincenzo scored 30 points as the Villanova Wildcats hung on late to beat the Butler Bulldogs by a score of 86-75.

With two minutes remaining, Butler started to dig into the Villanova Wildcats‘ 75-71 lead until Donte DiVincenzo hit a jump shot at the top of the key to record a new career-high 30 points.

After that jumper, it was free throws from Jalen Brunson that iced the game for the Wildcats and secured them a revenge win against one of only two teams to beat them this season.

Brunson finished the game with 27 points and went 10-for-18 from the field while Omari Spellman had a double-double, recording 10 points and 11 rebounds in the victory.

Although the Wildcats had secured the lead late in the fourth quarter, they struggled early on. Seven minutes into play they were down 21-8 to the Bulldogs who were 7-for-9 from the field and 5-for-7 from the perimeter.

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But after a TV timeout, Villanova’s defense showed signs of life and held Butler to 38 points going into halftime. It was DiVincenzo and Brunson rallying for the Wildcats offensively, closing in on Butler’s lead.

Villanova went on a run 11-2 run to open the second half and take the lead, their first lead of the game.

From then on it was adjustments in Villanova’s zone defense that Butler had difficulty scoring against. The Wildcats were closing in on the perimeter and contesting outside shots. Villanova opted to score inside against Butler, only attempting 18 three-pointers, significantly lower than their average of 28 a game. The Wildcats also sealed the deal at the foul line, going 20-for-23.

With the win, Villanova avoids back-to-back losses and get their first win against Butler after losing the last three meetings. The Bulldogs went 12-for-29 from beyond the arc, significantly worse than the 15-for-22 from three in their last meeting.

While DiVincenzo, Spellman, and Brunson all played well against the Bulldogs, Mikal Bridges struggled, going 4-for-13 from the field and 0-for-3 from the three-point line. In his last three games, Bridges is 2-for-12 from beyond the arc. He has been able to contribute inside offensively, usually posting up in an advantageous one vs. one matchup and bank it off the glass or dunk it down, posterizing his opponent.

There is some speculation to be made about Villanova’s defense. After looking like they were tightening up, they allowed St John‘s to put up 79 in a matchup where they were 17-point favorites. They are also currently ranked eighth out of ten in the Big East in defensive rating. It’s going to be difficult to improve defensively with Phil Booth and Eric Paschall sidelined with injuries.

Before Booth’s hand injury Jay Wright never really deviated from his six-man rotation but now, with two of those players sidelined with injuries, he’s still tinkering with the lineup. At some point, there is a realization that you can’t rely solely on Brunson for offensive production. In the second half, Colin Gillespie, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, Jermaine Samuels, DiVincenzo, and Bridges were all on the floor. That’s three players who don’t get major minutes all playing at the same time.

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While Wright tries to figure out his lineup and navigate through the Big East without Booth, Villanova’s upcoming schedule doesn’t do them any favors. Four of their next five games are on the road including a matchup against number five Xavier. Up next they’ll be taking on Providence on Valentines Day.