Jay Wright loves going to Hinkle Fieldhouse on the Butler campus because of its basketball history. Playing the team that calls Hinkle home, well, that’s another story.
In the two previous years, Villanova has visited the Bulldogs as an undefeated team, both times holding down the No. 1 ranking in the polls. The Wildcats have left both times with their first defeat of the season following starts of 14-0 in 2016-17 and 13-0 in 2017-18.
The Cats (14-4) return to Butler Tuesday night ranked 18th, but they come in as the Big East’s only unbeaten team at 5-0 and with a six-game winning streak. The Bulldogs (12-7, 3-3) haven’t kept pace, but they are 9-1 at home this season and have won their last two games.
“The arena actually inspires you, and the fans are really sophisticated so they’re not nasty,” Wright said Monday before the Wildcats boarded a bus for the airport and the flight to Indianapolis. “You love playing there. But their team ...
“In the games they’ve beaten us, which have been a lot, it’s the little things. We pride ourselves on doing the little things, and they do the little things better than us in those games. It seems like when you play there, they’re even at a heightened level of attention to detail, and it shows.”
Butler, which also won at the Pavilion in 2017, is led by 6-foot-1 junior guard Kamar Baldwin, one of the conference’s best all-around players. Baldwin leads his team in scoring (17.7 points per game) and rebounding (5.7), averages that increase to 22.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in conference play.
“He’s a very good player,” said Villanova guard Phil Booth, who also is averaging 22.2 points in Big East games. “He can go both ways very well, shoots it very well, gets his teammates involved. He can score from three-point, inside the lane, mid-range, he does it all for them.”
In addition, the Bulldogs received a significant boost when former Duke forward Jordan Tucker became eligible last month. In 10 games, Tucker is averaging 10.4 points and 5.5 rebounds, but he has really come on in his last two contests, with 21.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game with 11 three-point baskets.