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No. 14 Villanova batters Butler, 82-42

Former Abington High star Eric Dixon delivered 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting, five rebounds, and a career-high four assists.

With Butler’s Jair Bolden (52) and Chuck Harris looking on, Villanova’s Jermaine Samuels celebrates during the lopsided win at the Wells Fargo Center.
With Butler’s Jair Bolden (52) and Chuck Harris looking on, Villanova’s Jermaine Samuels celebrates during the lopsided win at the Wells Fargo Center.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

If you needed some more visual proof of Eric Dixon’s development during the 2021-22 season for Villanova, the first nine minutes was all you needed to see Sunday afternoon inside the Wells Fargo Center.

There was a spin move past a Butler defender and an easy hook shot. He scored post moves to both sides, showing his improved right-handed finishing ability. He showed off his passing vision with an assist on a Justin Moore three-pointer and then passed out of a double team for an easy Jermaine Samuels layup.

By the time Dixon set a screen for Caleb Daniels and flashed to the rim for an uncontested layup, not even nine minutes had gone by and Dixon was up to eight points and two assists and Villanova had a 15-point lead in what became a 82-42 blowout win.

“It’s simple, basic, but not sexy – getting better every day,” Wildcats coach Jay Wright said, “and he’s been doing it since day one since he’s been here.

“I really still believe this isn’t close to what he’s going to be in the end.”

Dixon, a redshirt sophomore from Abington High, seems to be getting better every game for the No. 14 Wildcats. In Wednesday’s win at Xavier, he posted his first double-double of the season (15 points, 10 rebounds). Sunday, he finished with 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting, five rebounds, and a career-high four assists.

“I just feel comfortable in my habits on the court,” Dixon said.

Villanova (13-4, 6-1 Big East) blew by Butler (9-7, 2-3) behind a balanced and potent scoring attack and relentless, suffocating defense. Four starters scored in double figures, with Collin Gillespie’s 17 points leading the way.

In a blink…

It had a vintage Villanova feel early. The Wildcats made their first seven shots. Butler missed six of its first seven. Even when the Bulldogs made baskets, they didn’t come easy.

Villanova connected on 11 of its first 13 shots and led by 26-8 before Butler got warmed up. The makes came from every angle and every starter.

Butler at one point cut the deficit to 31-20 before Villanova stopped a 12-5 run by going inside to Dixon, who again smartly and effectively passed out of a double team to a waiting Samuels for a lay-in.

Villanova had 12 assists on 15 first-half field goals and led 39-23 at the break.

Not today, Butler

How do you put any thoughts of a comeback to rest? Score the first 12 points of the second half while your opponent suffers through a stretch of 11 straight misses.

Dixon passed out of a double team to Moore for an open triple to open the second half. Moore hit another three two possessions later. When Gillespie and Caleb Daniels poured in consecutive threes six minutes into the half, Villanova was up to 20 makes on 29 shots and led by 28.

“We were just playing off our habits and our concepts,” Gillespie said. “The shots were there.”

The Wildcats made 12-of-19 three-point shots and 28-of-47 overall (with 21 assists).

» READ MORE: ‘I realized my journey wasn’t going to be sunshine and rainbows’: Villanova’s Bryan Antoine has remained positive through it all

Welcome back

Sunday’s game was Villanova’s first at Wells Fargo Center in 23 months. The Wildcats play two more games in Philadelphia, but could return in the postseason.

The Wells Fargo Center is the site of the East Regional during the NCAA Tournament.

It’s plenty early, but Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology had Villanova as a No. 3 seed in the East Regional.