Big East Conference basketball features nine sets of home-and-home games, which means it’s all about the adjustments, and adjusting to the adjustments, stuff that adds to the coaches’ collection of gray hairs.
For the second straight game, Villanova will be facing a team it had defeated last month. This time, the 10th-ranked Wildcats (17-4, 7-2 Big East) hope that Wednesday night’s game against No. 19 Butler (17-5, 5-4) will be more successful than the result of last Saturday’s home loss to Creighton, which Villanova beat on Jan. 7 in Omaha, Neb.
The Bluejays broke Villanova’s seven-game winning streak at Wells Fargo Center with a 76-61 victory, knocking down 11 of their 22 three-point attempts. The same thing concerns ‘Nova coach Jay Wright for the game at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
The Wildcats defeated the Bulldogs, 76-61, on Jan. 21 at Finneran Pavilion, limiting them to 40.6% shooting and 25% from three-point range. But Wright said the Cats were lucky to a degree.
“You hope our guys learned a great lesson from the Creighton game,” Wright said Tuesday. “You beat this team once. They’re going to make adjustments. They’re going to play a lot better. We showed guys shots that Butler had [in the first meeting] that they make normally, and we know we’ve got to be prepared for that.”
The process of making adjustments can be difficult with a young team, and the Wildcats this season have gone mostly with a seven-man rotation of two juniors, three sophomores, and two freshmen.
“When you have a young team, you’re hoping you can do your basic things well,” Wright said. “That’s what older teams do a great job of. All your basics, they’ve got that. What they’re really good at is adjusting. We’re not great at that yet. We have been in some games, but we haven’t been consistent that way.”
Senior guard Kamar Baldwin, Butler’s top scorer, is averaging 19.0 points per game in the Big East, and scored 21 (16 in the second half) against Villanova in the first game between the two teams.
“He’s a really dynamic guard,” said guard Collin Gillespie, who leads the Cats in scoring at 15.3 points per game. “He can do a lot with the ball. He can get shots off for himself and he can create for others.”
Another player to watch is 6-6 senior forward Sean McDermott, the Bulldogs’ top three-point shooter with 47 made threes and a 41.6% mark from beyond the arc. McDermott went 1-for-11 for two points and missed all seven of his attempts from distance last month against the Wildcats.
Villanova has to start finding the range. The Cats are shooting just 40.8% against Big East competition, and Saturday’s 36.1% rate marked the sixth time in their last 11 games they’ve been below 40%.