INDIANAPOLIS – Villanova visited its third hostile Big East arena of the season Tuesday night, and displayed another strong defensive performance with a liberal dose of three-point baskets sprinkled in.
Eric Paschall knocked down five of the visitors’ 12 three-point baskets and scored 23 points to lead five players in double figures and give the 18th-ranked Wildcats their seventh straight victory, 80-72, over Butler before a noisy crowd of 8,962 at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
The Wildcats (15-4, 6-0 Big East) broke a two-game losing streak on this court with a strong overall showing. They shot 49.1 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from three-point range, held a 30-28 rebounding advantage and limited guard Kamar Baldwin, the top scorer on Butler (12-8, 3-4) with a 17.7-point average, to just 11 on 5-of-14 shooting.
“We played well against a very good team,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “They’re playing good basketball, great defensively. They shot 48 percent [for the game] but we actually did a pretty good job defensively, which speaks to how good they are offensively.
“Plus, we finally got a little balance. We got some other guys involved offensively and that’s helping us grow, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”
Paschall and Phil Booth, who had 17 points and five assists, carried the offense as usual. But they were helped out this night by Collin Gillespie with 11 points, and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree and Saddiq Bey with 10 points each.
“It’s very good for everybody obviously,” Paschall said. “We have a very talented team, and it shows. Everybody played well tonight and we did a good job offensively as well. It just shows we’re a balanced team.”
Paschall set the early tone with four three-point baskets and 14 points as the Wildcats took a 41-37 halftime lead. Help came in the second half from Gillespie, who knocked down three three-pointers in a 12-0 run that gave Villanova control of the game at 55-44 with just over 14 minutes to play, and from Cosby-Roundtree, who contributed five of his game-high eight rebounds.
Cosby-Roundtree, who Wright said “played with great energy,” was one of several players who guarded the 6-foot-1 Baldwin, who has a habit of getting his team going at a moment’s notice. If Baldwin beat his man off the dribble, there usually were one of two Wildcats coming to cut him off.
“I think he’s not just a talented scorer but a really intelligent basketball player,” Wright said. “We tried to keep putting different guys on him, just at least to try to make him think a little bit and not get comfortable and know what we’re going to do every possession and try to do the best we could do.”
After trailing by 11, Butler got as close as five points, the last time at 61-56, before a 7-0 run capped by Paschall’s 25-foot trey gave the Wildcats a 12-point advantage with 6:25 left. When the Bulldogs closed to within seven at the 3-minute mark, Joe Cremo hit a layup off a steal, and the Wildcats capped it off by going 8-of-9 on free throws.
For Villanova, the result marked its third victory this season in an arena where it lost last season – at Providence, at Creighton, and here. When informed of that, Wright said, “That’s pretty cool.”
“But we really just look at one game at a time,” he said. “Even when we watch film of last year’s games, we realize that we’re different. We’ve got a lot of different players. Butler’s a different team. You’re at a different point in the season.