The Bulldogs finally got the Wildcat off their back. For 4 straight years the Villanova game at Hinkle Fieldhouse came down to the wire. This year Butler finally pulled it out, knocking off #1 and undefeated Villanova 66-58 to bolster their March resume and pull to 2-1 in the Big East. Kethan Savage and Kelan Martin led the way for the Bulldogs with 13 points. Jalen Brunson led all scorers with 23 points.
Player of the Game - Kethan Savage
This is the Kethan Savage Butler thought they were getting, and it appears he is finally back to full strength. Savage may not have the most complete box score, but he certainly stepped up when Butler needed him the most. He scored 7 of his team high 13 points in the final 4 minutes of the game, including this swipe and score that turned a 3 point lead into a 6 point lead with under 2 minutes to go and was ultimately the dagger for Villanova.
Poor Shooting Didn't Doom Butler
Last game Butler played poorly, but they shot excellent to bail themselves out. Tonight was the exact opposite. They shot poorly (outside of the perfect 15-15 from the line) but played an overall outstanding game. Nobody thought Butler would knock out #1 Villanova shooting 5 of 20 from the 3 point line. The key was the defense. The intensity was there right from the tip and stayed the entire game. The wildcats got very few easy looks at the basket. It was a classic Big East battle. It's great to see that on two different nights Butler can win two completely different games. The versatility of this team is outstanding.
Butler sent out a notice to the students before the game not to storm the court. They didn't listen, and I'm sure Butler will happily trade the $5k fine that will come down from the Big East for a win of this caliber. Critics will say a ranked team should never storm the court, but it certainly felt like an appropriate way to cap off the victory. Hinkle was absolutely electric tonight. Coach Holtmann said post game that the team only had 8 assists, but they got 1 more from the Butler crowd. He even claimed he will make a "significant contribution" to the $5k fine.
Martin Shuts Down Hart
Josh Hart has been a thorn in the side of Butler. He scored 22 points in both games last year, and is the top ranked KenPom player in the nation. Kelan Martin shut him down. Hart was only 3-11 from the field. Martin himself was only 4-10 from the floor, but anytime you can win a personal matchup with Josh Hart it's a huge win for the team. Martin has evolved from just a scorer into a complete basketball player, and he is exactly what Butler needs for a deep run in the Big East and the NCAA tournament.
Recruits In The Building
It was a great night to be at Hinkle Fieldhouse, and Butler took full advantage. Robert Phinese, Eric Hunter, Trayce Jackson-Davis, Aaron Henry, Isaiah Thompson & Brandon Stone were all on hand to witness Butler's historic victory. Chris Holtmann brought in Butler's topped ranked recruiting class this year, and then has it topped already for next year. He's in a great position to build on that and turn Butler into a destination school for recruits.
The Bulldogs get back on the road this weekend as they travel to the nation's capital to face Georgetown on Saturday. Life is hard on the road in the Big East, and Butler will need to prove they can come up with quality road wins if they want to stay in this fight in the Big East.