His team looked more than a little uncomfortable in the first half trying to defend against Butler, so Villanova coach Jay Wright entered the locker room with a purpose Wednesday in the opening game of the Big East season.

He didn't yell. Instead, he reiterated the defensive game plan and made sure his seniors, JayVaughn Pinkston and Darrun Hilliard, along with junior point guard Ryan Arcidiacono, kept preaching the message to their teammates.

The defense improved in the second half, holding the Bulldogs to 27.6 percent shooting. The sixth-ranked Wildcats didn't exactly fill it up at the offensive end but did enough to grind out a 67-55 victory at the Pavilion and get to 13-0, matching the best start in school history.

The Wildcats shot 57.7 percent in the first half but led by only 36-32. Something needed to be said.

"It's a simple thing - you go in at halftime, you've got leaders there," Wright said. "You don't have to yell. You just tell them, 'This is what they're doing,' and JayVaughn and Arch and Darrun, they go out and make sure everybody [adjusts].

"We were better [in the second half]. The things [the Bulldogs] do well, they were getting done in the first half. We saw it coming, we were prepared, but they were just doing it better than we were defending it. In the second half, I thought we defended it a little better than they ran it."

Hilliard, who went scoreless in the first half, opened the second half with seven straight points, including a three-ball, and the lead was 43-32 less than two minutes in. Combine that with Butler's making just three of its first 20 shots, and 'Nova had a margin to work with.

"Those guys, when they communicate with each other, they're very connected on the floor," Wright said. "That's what a team is. They know what each other's going to do, they know how to execute what we're doing together. "

Not that it was pretty. Villanova was outrebounded, 40-29, and the Bulldogs grabbed 17 offensive boards to the Cats' three. In the second half, the home team shot 38 percent from the field, 20 percent from three-point range, and 59 percent from the free-throw line.

Still, it was a win.

"It was tough, scrappy," said Arcidiacono, who led Villanova with 15 points. "It didn't look like pretty basketball, but that's just the way we want to play and make it like a Villanova basketball game. That's what we try to do."

Arcidiacono, who said a sore right wrist that bothered him for "five or six games" felt better, was joined by three teammates in double figures. Daniel Ochefu had game highs of nine rebounds and five blocks to go with 10 points.

Wright simply was pleased to get through the first of 18 Big East games.

"I say this every time we play Butler: If I didn't have to coach against them, I'd be a fan," he said. "I love how they play - they're tough, they execute extremely well."

@joejulesinq