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Resilient Cats’ win their third straight game | Villanova vs. Butler Recap

Written by on February 21, 2024

Villanova’s hot month of February continues with a 10-point win over Butler to extend their winning streak to three games. It is Villanova’s first time winning at least three consecutive games since they won four-in-a-row from December 9th to January 3rd. The Wildcats were led by the trio of Eric Dixon, Justin Moore, and Brendan Hausen. Villanova converted 49% of their shots from the field, which helped them improve to 15-11 overall and 8-7 in conference play.

With their win on Tuesday against the Bulldogs, Villanova jumps into 5th place in the Big East standings and opens up a 1.5 game lead over Butler.

Villanova’s TJ Bamba shoots a three-pointer in the middle of the first half at a packed Finn on Tuesday night.

Eric Dixon, who now averages almost 16 points per game, scored 22 points against Butler with six rebounds and three assists. He knocked down all eight free throw attempts. In 18 minutes, Brendan Hausen converted 3 of 4 three-point attempts and scored 13 points. He was a +13 when on the court and continues to solidify himself as a top scoring option for Villanova. After scoring ten points in the second half against Georgetown, Justin Moore shot 4-7 from the field and 3-5 from behind the arc for 13 total points and four rebounds against Butler. Moore was heavily incorporated into the early offensive gameplan for Villanova, and his speed and athleticism on Tuesday looked like vintage Justin Moore prior to the knee injury.

Villanova’s Team Stats

As a team, Villanova knocked down 10 of 24 three-point attempts. They shot a perfect 12 for 12 from the charity stripe.

The Wildcats outrebounded the Bulldogs by 17 rebounds, 37-20. However, Villanova lost the turnover battle by five in a rare sloppy game in the turnover category for the Wildcats. They committed just 12 turnovers, which is average or good for most teams, but of course, the Wildcats have excelled at limiting turnovers for most of the season. Butler also recorded two more assists than Villanova, but the Wildcats’ great three-point shooting and tremendous rebounding, specifically in the second half, led the Cats’ to a fairly easy victory.

Butler’s Team Stats

Butler’s leading scorer against Villanova in the first matchup, DJ Davis, played 26 minutes and just scored 4 points while shooting 1 for 7 from the field. He missed some time in the beginning of the second half after an apparent injury, but he returned later in the game. With Davis struggling, Butler’s offense was not as crisp as it was in Indiana during the first matchup. Jahmyl Telfort led Butler with 19 points and seven rebounds. However, he was a -10 when on the court. Posh Alexander could not miss from behind the arc in the first twenty minutes as he contributed 15 points and four threes. Pierre Brooks was efficient from the field by shooting 50% with 10 points against Villanova. The Bulldogs converted 43% of their shots from the field and 38% from behind the arc. Butler had some powerful offensive runs in this game, but Villanova’s defense played extremely well in the second half and held the Bulldogs to under 70 points. The Wildcats have not allowed more than 62 points to an opponent in the month of February.

Game Recap

First Half: Offensive Shootout

In front of 6,501 at a packed Finneran Pavilion, Villanova and Butler treated their fans to a first half offensive shootout. It looked like a three-point contest as both teams seemingly could not miss from behind the arc in the first twenty minutes. TJ Bamba and Justin Moore exchanged three-pointers with Butler’s Posh Alexander in the first minutes of this game. After a Jordan Longino layup, the game was tied at 15 with 12:42 left to play in the first half.

Alexander, who converted just 26% of his shots from behind the arc on the season, continued to hit even contested three-pointers for Butler in the first half. However, Villanova’s offense continued to respond with Hausen and Bamba knocking down shots midway in the first. Villanova took a five-point lead over Butler with 5:31 left after a Justin Moore three-point jumper.

A Tyler Burton layup was followed by a deep Hausen three, which built Villanova’s lead to nine points with three minutes left. The Finn was rocking on Tuesday night (70’s theme night) with a lot of energy and good vibes in the building. In a truly amazing offensive first half and battle for both teams, the Wildcats took a 44-35 lead over the Bulldogs into the locker room at halftime.

Second Half: Dixon Takes Over + Villanova Holds On

The opposite of the first half happened in the second half; an offensive shootout turned into a defensive battle. Both teams scored just five combined points in the first four minutes of the second half. Prior to the first media timeout, Butler’s DJ Davis appeared to suffer a leg injury as he fell awkwardly in front of the Bulldogs’ bench. Davis would later check back into the game for Butler, but had little success.

Like the first game, Butler came alive at the start of the second half. Telfort and the Bulldogs trimmed the Wildcats’ lead to just two points with 13:28 left. Hausen answered with five quick points, including another three. Villanova’s momentum was building, but unfortunately, a couple of bad sequences and turnovers from miscommunication by Mark Armstrong and TJ Bamba hurt the Wildcats’ rhythm and allowed Butler to get back into the game. Despite some good sequences from Butler in the second half at times, Villanova always kept the lead around five points.

Eric Dixon knocked down some key free throws late in the game to give Villanova a nine-point advantage, 63-54, with just 5:07 left. Telfort and Alexander cut the deficit to six points, but Butler’s defense could not get stops late in the game. Dixon sealed the victory with a three-pointer, which extended the lead to 10 points with just 60 seconds remaining. Nova Nation applauded and cheered perhaps the loudest all season at the Finn as Villanova won their third straight game and fourth game in their last five contests. Coach Neptune was very happy with the effort from his team against Butler, “I was really proud of the way our guys came out. Pretty good run from them there in the beginning, drilling some shots….but our guys are resilient and they kept fighting.”

My Thoughts + Villanova’s Road Ahead

There were a lot of positives in this game for Villanova: strong defense, efficient shooting, and excellent rebounding. The main area of needed improvement from the Georgetown win on Friday was the rebounding. And the Wildcats did just that with 37 total rebounds. The Wildcats’ defense limited a highly skilled Butler offense that averages almost 80 points per game. Butler had some good offensive moments and runs early in the game, but unlike Villanova’s performances in January, the Wildcats did not give into the pressure and kept battling. Villanova now prepares for a huge test against #1 UConn, who just lost to #15 Creighton on the road yesterday, on Saturday in Connecticut. UConn is undefeated at home this season in their first 14 home contests. The Huskies have not lost back-to-back games since last year. Villanova lost to #1 UConn by just one point at the Wells Fargo Center more than a month ago. If they can find a way to defeat UConn on the road most likely in a low scoring battle, Villanova’s March Madness hopes will skyrocket. It would be the biggest win for Villanova in the last couple of years.

Villanova vs. UConn begins at 8pm on Saturday and can be watched on FOX.