Ari Rosenfeld (@realA_rosenfeld)
For the first time in nearly a calendar year, the Villanova Wildcats will have to figure out how to bounce back from a loss. The undefeated, defending national champs and the top-ranked team in the nation fell victim to a late run and went down 66-58 in a road tilt against the 18th-ranked Butler Bulldogs.
The teams exchanged first half runs, with the Wildcats jumping out to an early lead before responding to a 9-0 Butler run--spurred on by a Jay Wright technical--with a 7-0 spurt of their own. Neither team gained much separation from there on out, with ‘Nova maintaining control well into the second half but never extending the lead beyond two possessions.
With 4:52 left, a Josh Hart and-one broke a 47-all tie, and it was all Butler from there. The Bulldogs ripped off a 11-2 run, capped by a Kethan Savage steal and and-one of his own, to go ahead by six in front of a raucous Hinkle Fieldhouse crowd.
Butler sealed the win at the free-throw line, making six in the final 33 seconds, finishing 15-for-15 from the foul stripe.
Villanova has thrived on senior leadership for years, but tonight it was the Bulldogs who rode their veterans to the win. Stretch-four Andrew Chrabascz played his typical all-around game, posting 13 points, seven boards, and three assists. Savage, a transfer from George Washington, provided a key spark off the bench, putting up 13 points despite averaging less than four on the season.
For the second consecutive game, the Wildcats were led by sophomore guard Jalen Brunson, who posted 23 points and was particularly aggressive hunting his shot in the second half.
20: The loss marks the end of a 20-game Villanova winning streak, dating back to last season’s NCAA Tournament run. Their last loss came last March in the Big East Tournament championship to Seton Hall.
.250: The Wildcats managed to shoot just 6-for-24 (25 percent) from long range, and seemed insistent on shooting themselves out of the slump in the second half, with Brunson being the only one capable of consistently getting to the rim.
7: Villanova had just seven assists on 18 buckets, both low numbers on the season, as was the team's scoring output. It's only the second team all season the Wildcats had fewer than 10 assists.
Villanova (14-1, 2-1 Big East) vs. Marquette (10-4, 1-1) -- Sat., Jan. 7, 7 PM