Bulldogs Fall To Nationally-Ranked Villanova

Bulldogs Fall To Nationally-Ranked Villanova
Kellen Dunham (Photo by John Fetcho)

PHILADELPHIA, PA. -- Nationally-ranked Villanova used defense, depth and dominant rebounding to hand visiting Butler a 67-48 setback in a BIG EAST contest at the Pavilion on Wednesday (Feb. 26).  It was Butler's seventh straight loss and dropped the Bulldogs to 12-16 on the season and 2-14 in conference play.

The Wildcats, ranked eighth in the latest Associated Press poll and ninth in the USA Today poll, limited Butler to its lowest scoring out-put of the season.  The Bulldogs shot a season-low 30.6% for the game, including just 26.1% in the first half.

Villanova (25-3, 13-2 BIG EAST) didn't shoot much better, finishing at 39.7%.  But the Wildcats had a 33-16 advantage in bench points and a 24-14 edge in points inside the lane.  The home squad out-scored Butler, 17-2, in points off turnovers.

"Villanova's obviously one of the best defensive teams we've faced all year," said Butler head coach Brandon Miller.  "We struggled shooting the basketball when we got open looks, but they made it very difficult for us to get open looks all night."

Both teams started slowly.  Butler scored just six points in the first ten minutes; Villanova had ten.  But the Wildcats, playing their final home game of the season, picked up the pace in the final 10 minutes of the opening period and went on a 24-14 run to take a 14-point halftime lead.  Butler's final three points of the half came on sophomore Kellen Dunham's desperation three-point attempt that banked in at the buzzer.

The Bulldogs looked to be turning things around early in the second half, scoring six points in the first two minutes and trimming Villanova's lead to 37-26.  But that's as close as it would get.  The Wildcats used a 21-3 run midway through the second period to stretch the lead to 29 points and effectively seal their 13th home win of the season.

Villanova out-rebounded the Bulldogs, 23-14, in the first half and 42-35 for the game.  The Wildcats had 18 offensive rebounds, leading to 17 second chance points.

"Our inability to rebound the ball, and our inability to be efficient on the offensive end kept the score out of reach," added Butler's coach.

Dunham led all players with 12 points, and he topped the Bulldogs with seven rebounds.  Senior Khyle Marshall added 10 points and freshman Elijah Brown came off the bench with eight.

The Wildcats had seven different players score six or more points, led by James Bell and Darrun Hilliard with 11 points apiece.  Josh Hart came off the bench to lead both teams with eight rebounds, while Bell and JayVaughn Pinkston each added seven.

Butler will have its longest break of the season, before returning to action on March 6 at DePaul.  That game at AllState Arena in Rosemont, Ill., is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. (CT).