For the 3rd time this calendar year the Bulldogs have knocked off the class of the Big East. The Bulldogs used hot shooting from distance to jump out to a 23 point second half lead and then hung on for dear life down the stretch to beat Villanova 101-93. Kelan Martin led all Bulldogs with 24 points and Paul Jorgensen scored 23 points in Butler's upset victory over the #1 team in the country.
Big Cat Hunting
The Bulldogs have now beat Villanova 3 times in the last 12 months. Prior to the announcement of the starting lineups Butler played a hype video consisting of highlights and audio call from last year's victory over #1 Villanova at Hinkle Fieldhouse on January 4th. Butler then topped themselves by taking their act on the road and upsetting #2 Villanova at their place. After going winless against Villanova in the first 3 years in the Big East, Butler has now won 3 straight. Since losing to Xavier 2/24/2016, Villanova is 0-3 against Butler and 44-1 against everyone else in the regular season.
This is what you call a high level basketball game. Villanova certainly didn't hand this game to the Bulldogs. Villanova shot 54% from the floor, 34% from distance, pulled down 8 offensive rebounds, and only turned the ball over 4 times. Their offense was spectacular against a good Butler defense, scoring 93 points at 1.26 points per possession. Butler was better. Despite 13 turnovers the Bulldogs churned out 101 points at 1.38 points per possession, shooting 60% from the field and 78% from 3-point land. They also knocked down 14-18 free throws and pulled down 9 rebounds despite a limited number of chances. We all knew Butler's offense packed a punch if they could just put together a full game. They came as close as reasonably possible to doing that against one of the best defenses in the country. Their offensive efficiency jumped from 59th in the country to 36th in a single afternoon.
Quote of the Night
Paul Jorgensen had another huge night, scoring 23 points on 8-13 shooting from the floor. He got the Bulldogs started with 7 of their first 13 points and then hit 3 3-pointers in the final 3:19 of the first half to push Butler up by 8 at the break. Paul then opened the second half with yet another 3-pointer to pick Butler right up where they left off. After the game, Jorgensen was asked about the difference between Butler and George Washington and why he is finding a different level of success here. "I don't want people to think of me as a transfer, " Paul remarked. "I just want to be a Bulldog."
Will The Real Butler Bulldogs Please Stand Up?
Every team goes through ups and downs from minute to minute, half to half, game to game. No team ever plays their best, or their worst, all the time. Or even the majority of the time. But this Butler team is like a light switch. They are either on or they are off and there seems to be very little middle ground. The last 3 halves of Butler basketball have showcased a team that can contend for a national title. The team that played the first half at Georgetown (and long stretches of their 3 losses) might not win a single game in the Big East. As we have moved along in the season the "Bad Bulldogs" have seemingly popped up less and less. If that trend can continue we might have a Big East contender on our hands. Tuesday will be yet another benchmark on that front.
Can it get any harder than facing #1 Villanova? Yes, yes it can. The Bulldogs travel to Cincinnati on Tuesday to face #6 Xavier at their place. Xavier has struggled in their past 5 games, finding themselves in battles at home against teams like East Tennessee State, Marshall, and DePaul. You can bet they will be fired up for the Bulldogs though, and if there was any chance the Musketeers would overlook Butler it's safe to assume that is now long gone.