No. 1 Villanova held to worst shooting night of season
By Tom Davis, Tdavis@news-sentinel.com
Thursday, January 05, 2017 10:28 PM
INDIANAPOLIS – It wasn’t difficult to determine just how 18th-ranked Butler upset No. 1-ranked Villanova Wednesday at Hinkle Fieldhouse; you just need to do the math.
The Wildcats (14-1, 2-1 Big East) had never shot lower than 42.1 percent from the floor this season, and had been over 50 percent in their shooting in seven of the past eight games.
But that changed – drastically - Wednesday.
After allowing Villanova to make nearly 46 percent of its shots in the opening half, the Bulldog defense stiffened in the final 20 minutes and forced Villanova into 20 misses in its 29 attempts (31 percent).
“Credit Butler’s defense,” Wildcat coach Jay Wright said. “They prevented us from getting guys involved (offensively). When you look at the results that is one thing. (When) You look at how it happened, they played really good team defense. I’m very impressed.”
Not only was Butler (13-2, 2-1) able to create missed shots from Villanova, but the Bulldogs grabbed those misses with great frequency.
Butler outrebounded a strong and lengthy Villanova team by nine, which is more than it had any other opponent this season.
“With them switching as often as they do,” Bulldog senior forward Andrew Chrabascz explained, “you try to get them in scramble mode a little bit, with that, sometimes you get open lanes to try and get to the board. But you feed off the energy of the crowd and it just makes you go a little bit harder and a little bit faster each possession.”
The 9,206 fans that packed Hinkle Fieldhouse didn’t score a single point or grab a rebound in the victory, but third-year Butler coach Chris Holtmann, like Chrabascz said, said those in attendance did generate an assist. At least figuratively.
“It was an unbelievable environment,” Holtmann said. “It was the loudest that I have ever heard Hinkle. It’s gotten loud in my short time here. Really loud. It was the loudest that I’ve ever heard it.
“Our guys fed off that. Our crowd and the energy they brought, we only had eight assists; (the crowd) deserves at least one more.”
Even Wright was impressed with the energy that filled the fieldhouse.
“As always,” Wright said, “when we come here, I say it was a great college basketball game and a great atmosphere.
“Butler fans are just awesome and this is a great place to play. This place reeks with history and tradition and Butler plays that way. It’s a great place to play college basketball.”
Another tough night
Though Villanova has won three consecutive Big East regular season championships, as well as 20 consecutive games (which included the 2016 National Championship game), its road to success has not been easy, particularly through the Big East.
In their three games already this season, the Wildcats nearly lost at home to league bottom-feeder DePaul (Villanova won 68-65) and trailed on the road at Creighton by 10 before pulling out an 80-70 victory.
“You have schools with great basketball tradition,” Wright said of the league. “They expect to win. Everybody wins out of conference. They win a lot and when they get into the league they expect to win. And when they play at home, they really expect to win.
“I don’t think that there is a better basketball conference in the country. There are a lot of great ones, but I don’t know if there is one better.”
The win over Villanova, though seismic in the attention that it received nationally, wasn’t exactly startling to those familiar with the Butler program.
The Bulldogs have now beaten three top 10 teams in the nation this season and four nationally-ranked teams. In fact, it was just four seasons ago that Butler beat another No.1-ranked team (Indiana), so the Bulldog program has a history of success against top teams.
“We talk about this nearly every day,” Holtmann said, “we are so fortunate to be a part of a program with unbelievable heritage. We do not take for granted, honestly, we are just trying to do it justice.”
Since Holtmann took over the program, Butler is 11-11 against nationally-ranked opponents.
Butler will travel to Georgetown Saturday at noon (FOX, WLYV 1450 AM).