No. 1 Villanova seeks bounce back vs. Butler
PHILADELPHIA -- After suffering its second loss of the season, top-ranked Villanova will look to rebound with a home matchup against Butler on Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Wildcats (22-2, 9-2 Big East) were stunned 79-75 by visiting St. John's on Wednesday night. The Red Storm snapped Villanova's nine-game winning streak.
Villanova's only other loss this season came against Butler in a 101-93 defeat on Dec. 30. The Bulldogs (17-8, 7-5) hit 15 of 22 shots from beyond the arc in that victory.
In Wednesday's loss to St. John's, the Wildcats nearly capped a furious rally but fell short despite 28 points from Jalen Brunson. Freshman guard Collin Gillespie contributed a career-high 12 points.
"St. John's forced us into one-on-one situations where we didn't create any shots for each other," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "That's what they do. They're tough to guard. (Shamorie) Ponds is one of the best one-on-one players in the country. It was just a good game plan by them. You have to give them all the credit."
Villanova had connected on at least 12 3-pointers in 10 of its last 12 games but finished just 8 of 33 against the Red Storm.
"Everyone will look at those numbers but we really didn't have many good looks," Wright said. "St. John's did a good job of guarding us."
Villanova will be without guard Phil Booth (fractured bone in right hand) and possibly starting forward Eric Paschall (concussion). Paschall was a late scratch against St. John's and it's unclear whether he'll be ready to return to face Butler. At times against St. John's, Wright had to play three freshmen at the same time.
The Wildcats won the first six matchups against Butler, though the Bulldogs have captured the last three.
Butler lost a thriller its last time out in a 98-93 overtime defeat to No. 5 Xavier on Tuesday at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Senior Kelan Martin led the way with 34 points but the Bulldogs had their four-game winning streak stopped.
"This is a difficult one to swallow," Butler coach LaVall Jordan told reporters. "Hinkle was electric and our guys fought. I'm proud of how we competed and how we gave ourselves a chance to win. This was a game where you had to keep responding. Our guys did it and their guys did too. The spirit we had tonight, we'll take that every time. We just came out on the wrong end of this one tonight."
Sean McDermott scored 17 points while Kamar Baldwin added 16, but Butler was unable to fully come back from an 18-point deficit. As a team, Butler shot 53 percent.
The Bulldogs had overcome double-digit deficits earlier this season to post victories against Georgetown and Ohio State.
"We just talked about we've been through this before. It's nothing new," Martin told the Indianapolis Star. "Just stick together. It starts on the defensive end, just getting stops, and we scored in transition."
Martin is averaging 19.3 points in his last four games against the Wildcats.
Updated February 9, 2018