INDIANAPOLIS - In building a 20-game winning streak going back to last season, top-ranked Villanova often managed to hit the key basket, or make an important stop, or find a way to mentally out-tough an opponent, no matter the venue or the decibel level.
But on Wednesday night, before 9,206 spectators who threatened to raise the roof off venerable Hinkle Fieldhouse, Butler did all those things better than the Wildcats. The 18th-ranked Bulldogs controlled the last three minutes and posted a 66-58 upset over the visitors.
Villanova (14-1, 2-1 Big East), which last lost to Seton Hall in the Big East tournament final on March 12, established season lows for points, field-goal percentage (37.3), and rebounding margin (minus-9). Meanwhile, the Bulldogs (13-2, 2-1) shot 52 percent from the field in the second half and sank all 15 of their free-throw attempts in the game.
"They just did more than us tonight," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "It wasn't one thing here or there. It's just that over the course of the game, hitting the shot here, making the extra pass there, they just did a better job than us. I credit their defense for that. I think they did a very good job defensively."
Josh Hart, who went in averaging a conference-leading 20.3 points per game, happened to be one of those defensive targets. After hitting his first shot of the game, Hart missed eight straight before making his second field goal with 4 minutes, 52 seconds left in the second half. He finished 3 of 11 and scored 13 points.
"Obviously I don't like it, but you've just got to build on it," Hart said of what was only the 14th loss of his collegiate career, against 111 victories.
"Whether we won tonight or lost, we've got to get back tomorrow and get better. Obviously it stinks right now, but it's not going to discourage us. We're going to get back and work on our habits."
Only five players scored for the Cats, with starter Mikal Bridges and Eric Paschall going scoreless.
Hart scored five straight points, including a short jumper that gave Villanova its last lead, at 52-51, with 3:18 remaining. The Bulldogs then seized the momentum for good with a 7-0 run led by senior Kethan Savage, a transfer from George Washington who scored 13 in 21 minutes off the bench.
Savage hit a driving layup to give Butler the lead, and, after a missed three-point try by Bridges, Kelan Martin hit a leaner from the side. Savage then intercepted Kris Jenkins' crosscourt pass, went in for a layup, was fouled, and sank the free throw, making it 58-52 with 1:46 to play.
Jalen Brunson, who had 23 points, sank both ends of a one-and-one for 'Nova. Kamar Baldwin missed on the next trip down for the Bulldogs, but Baldwin then stole the ball from Hart and hit a layup for a 60-54 advantage and sent the sellout crowd into a frenzy.
The Wildcats never got closer than four.
"I can't say enough about the quality of the opponent that we played," Butler coach Chris Holtmann said. "It's an unbelievable program, a terrific team. We have the utmost respect for the way they play. For us, we kind of stayed with it long enough to make the necessary plays."
Four days after finding a way to quiet the crowd at Creighton in an 80-70 win, the Wildcats couldn't duplicate the feat here. Wright admitted it was something he and his team thought about.
"We were kind of psyched about that challenge, to see if we could really put together two great road efforts against outstanding teams," he said. "We just didn't have enough tonight. And they were really good."