INDIANAPOLIS – Villanova and Butler are two of the best defensive teams in the Big East, but they decided to put their offensive skills on display Wednesday night, trading big shots at both ends of the Hinkle Fieldhouse court the entire evening.
The 10th-ranked Wildcats twice recovered from 10-point second-half deficits to tie the game, and needed one more stop at the defensive end to force overtime. The Bulldogs’ Kamar Baldwin had other ideas, however, and he drained a three-point basket at the buzzer for a 79-76 victory over the Cats, who lost back-to-back games for the first time this season.
Villanova (17-5, 7-3 Big East) went without a field goal for 5 ½ minutes and fell behind 68-58 on Baldwin’s three that capped a 12-2 run with 5 minutes, 42 seconds to play. Saddiq Bey broke the drought with a three-point basket, the first of five threes the Cats would knock down in the final 4:27.
Bey finished up his night with back-to-back threes in the final minute, the second putting the teams in a 76-76 deadlock with 24.7 seconds remaining.
The No. 19 Bulldogs (18-5, 6-4) decided against calling a timeout and put the ball in the hands of Baldwin, their No. 1 scorer, who was guarded by Collin Gillespie. Baldwin dribbled the seconds away, faked a drive and stepped back for a three-point shot that swished through with the clock showing 0.0.
An official review determined that the shot easily beat the buzzer, and Butler had avenged a 76-61 loss at Villanova on Jan. 21.
Bey and Gillespie accounted for much of the Wildcats’ offense, Bey with 29 points and Gillespie with 28 plus six assists. The pair combined for eight of Villanova’s nine three-point baskets, as the Cats shot 52.9% (9-for-17) from deep.
However, the Cats’ inside defense was no match for the Bulldogs. Nine of Butler’s first 10 second-half baskets came on layups or dunks, with the other being a short jumper in the paint. For the game, the Bulldogs had 42 points in the paint, with 6-foot-9 forward Bryce Golden scoring a season-high 18 points on 9-of-12 shooting.
Sean McDermott, who missed all seven of his three-point attempts and scored two points in the last meeting of the two teams, went 7-for-8 overall and led the Bulldogs with 21 points. Baldwin finished with 17. Butler shot 57.7%, the second straight ‘Nova opponent to make more than half its shots. Creighton shot 50.9% Saturday.
Jay Wright on Baldwin’s last shot: “He hit that step-back fadeaway three. You can’t stop everything. He’s very good at driving the ball and he’s a very good finisher. We were mostly concerned about that. You have to pick something and we thought we would live with that, keep him from driving.”
Wright on Butler’s success inside: “We just had trouble guarding them. I have to look at the film to see why we were that bad. They were physically tougher than us, breaking us down in the post and scoring on us. You’ve got to give them credit because they made plays. We did, too, but they hit the last one.”
The Wildcats had no answers for Butler’s inside game and particularly Golden, an efficient passer from the high post hitting cutters to the hoop. Forward Cole Swider did not play at all in the second half. Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, a 6-foot-9 junior, had a good run in the first half but played less than 5 minutes in the second.