Feb. 26, 2014
VILLANOVA, Pa. - On a night when Villanova bid farewell to its seniors, it relied on its defensive grit to post a 67-48 victory over Butler in a BIG EAST battle at the Pavilion. The Wildcats improved to 25-3 and matched the school record for regular season victories, most recently matched by the 2008-09 edition.
"That's very cool," stated Wildcats head coach Jay Wright of that note. "This is a really good group to coach. Our coaching staff enjoys coaching these guys. It's been a pleasure all year. But we can't let that prevent us from us driving them or them driving themselves to get better.
"That's really our challenge. We like coaching these guys so much that we can't go easy on them. We've got to keep pushing them. That's really where we are right now."
"(Team Chaplain) Father Rob (Hagan) does a little homily before our pre-game meal," stated Wright. "I pulled (Bell) aside and I was emotional then. I went to talk to the senior class and I got emotional at the start of that. When the (seniors) stand up on the press table at the end of the game in front of the student section, that's one of my favorite traditions at Villanova.
"It's all emotional stuff for me. I love it."
The Bulldogs dropped to 12-16 overall, 2-14 in the BIG EAST.
Villanova limited Butler to 15-of-49 shooting for the evening (.306), including 4-of-19 from beyond the 3-point arc (.214). They became the first opponent this season to hold the Bulldogs below 50 points.
"I know that wasn't pretty but our coaching staff liked it," stated Wright. "Butler is a tough, scrappy team that is not going to let you play pretty. You've got to find a way to grind and I thought we did that. We didn't make shots, shot poorly from the free throw line again, but we defended."
Points were tough to come by in the game's opening 4:08. Each team connected on its first 1-of-4 from the field but Villanova gained the slight edge as its basket came on a 3-pointer by sophomore Ryan Arcidiacono. VU led 3-2 at the first official timeout of the contest.
The theme continued as the count was 10-9 in favor of Villanova at the mid-point of the period.
However, JayVaughn Pinkston's work near the basket and continued defensive tenacity helped the Wildcats close the period on a 24-11 run to claim a 34-20 lead after 20 minutes. The native of Brooklyn, N.Y. contributed eight points and four rebounds in the half while junior Darrun Hilliard added seven points and four caroms.
Butler jumped out with a 6-3 spurt to open the second half as Kyle Marshall scored four of those points for the Bulldogs. A James Bell corner 3-pointer was Villanova's only scorer and the lead was 37-26 after 2:17 had been played in the period.
But the Wildcats took over from there, pushing their advantage to 44-28 and never looked back. Bell exited the floor with 11 points and seven rebounds at the 4:49 mark to a standing ovation. Chennault, who finished with four points and three caroms, also departed to cheers from the home crowd. McMahon returned to the floor for the final minutes.
One key to the triumph was limiting the damage done by Bulldogs guard, Kellen Dunham, who connected on just 3-of-13 field goal attempts and finished with 12 points.
"Dylan Ennis was 0-of-4 from three and 0-5 from the field and had his best game as a Villanova guard," noted Wright. "His defense was tremendous."
Next up for the Wildcats is a matinee Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center as Marquette comes to Philadelphia for a contest that begins at 2:00 p.m. The game will be televised by CBS with Kevin Harlan and Greg Anthony handling the play-by-play and analyst duties.
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