Dec. 31, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Villanova scored the first five points of overtime and held off a charge from Butler to capture its BIG EAST opener Tuesday night by the count of 76-73 before a raucous crowd of 9,318 at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The No. 11 Wildcats are 12-1 overall, 1-0 in the BIG EAST while the Bulldogs fall to 10-3 overall, 0-1 in conference play.
"What an awesome atmosphere," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "Bill Raftery said to me in the (Fox Sports 1) interview after the game that it was the same old Big East. It really was. We knew (Butler) is an outstanding team.
"We just hung in there and kept responding when they came back."
Junior JayVaughn Pinkston led the Wildcats with 22 points while junior Darrun Hilliard added 15 more. Villanova outscored the Bulldogs 42-20 in points in the paint which helped offset a 5-of-16 effort from beyond the 3-point arc.
Kellen Dunham led the Bulldogs with 22 points, including a series of acrobatic attempts that helped Butler force overtime.
"We saw on film that he makes those kinds of shots," noted Jay Wright. "We tried to force the ball out of his hands by trapping him when we could. He's just really dangerous in those situations."
The Wildcats grabbed an early lead thanks to the work of Ryan Arcidiacono (five points) and Pinkston (four points) in the game's first four minutes. But the Bulldogs drained a pair of 3-pointers to keep it tight at 11-10 with 15:18 left in the first period.
However, a pair of and one baskets - the second of which resulted in a four point play by Dunham - put Butler into the lead and the Bulldogs were able to push the advantage to 20-16. Villanova bounced right back, though, and regained the edge at 23-22 when senior Tony Chennault converted a drive and added a free throw.
The lead changed hands often over the final six minutes of the period. Elijah Brown helped Butler's cause with 13 first half points while Pinkston and Darrun Hilliard did the offensive damage for VU. A pair of Hilliard free throws gave the Wildcats a 35-34 lead at intermission.
The Wildcats connected on 13-of-25 field goals (.520) but were just 1-of-8 from beyond the 3-point arc (.125) in the first 20 minutes. Butler, in contrast, was 10-of-28 (.357) from the floor but drained five triples to keep pace with the `Cats.
Villanova reeled off the first eight points of the second half thanks to some nifty work inside by sophomore Daniel Ochefu and Pinkston and grabbed a 43-34 lead. However, Butler responded with three triples and an old school 3-point play to drop the VU edge to 49-48 with 13 minutes on the clock in the second half.
The Wildcats kept a narrow lead for the rest of the period. But a spinning jumper by Dunham with 25 seconds left in regulation knotted matters at 66. The Wildcats held the ball for the final possession of the period but a short Pinkston jumper caromed off the rim and the contest moved to overtime.
Arcidiacono opened the overtime by sinking a 3-pointer and Villanova never trailed again, though there were a series of tense moments. The Wildcats held off Butler after it gained possession down 74-73 with 13 seconds left, coming up with three stops, including blocked shots by Pinkston and Arcidiacono.
"That was a huge shot by Arch," noted Wright. "He just makes them for us at big moments."
Pinkston drained a pair of free throws with 3.1 seconds left and then intercepted a long pass as Butler tried to tie the contest. The final was 76-73.
"This was just a tough win against an outstanding team," stated Wright.
Villanova hosts its BIG EAST home opener this Sunday evening against Providence at 7 p.m. in the Pavilion (Fox Sports 1).
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