Villanova Wildcats

No. 1 Villanova is no longer perfect

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No. 1 Villanova is no longer perfect

BOX SCORE

INDIANAPOLIS — No. 1 Villanova learned a tough lesson Saturday.

The defense needs to improve dramatically if the Wildcats want to be the nation's best team.

Kelan Martin scored 24 points, Paul Jorgensen added a career-high 23 and Butler made 15 3-pointers in a 101-93 upset over one of college basketball's last unbeaten teams.

"This is the best offense we've played so far and it showed," coach Jay Wright said. "We've really been outscoring teams to this point and we weren't going to outscore this team tonight."

Certainly not against a foe that seems to have a master plan for taking down the Wildcats (13-1, 1-1 Big East).

Almost exactly a year after ending another perfect start to knock Villanova out of the top spot, Butler did it again.

This time, Villanova came into the game allowing 65.8 points and 6.6 3s per game with 10 wins by 14 or more points.

Butler's shooters blew right past those numbers. Martin and Jorgensen each made four 3s, Kamar Baldwin, who flirted with a triple-double, had three and Henry Baddley and Sean McDermott each made two.

When it ended, Butler shot 60 percent from the field including 15 of 22 from beyond the arc, both season-lows for Villanova. And the Bulldogs posted the highest scoring total against Villanova since Creighton's 101-80 victory on Feb. 16, 2014.

Afterward, students ignored the school's pleas to delay storming the court until players had left the floor and the Bulldogs talked about the need to do even bigger and better things.

"Villanova is a team that I grew up watching, watching in the Garden," said Jorgensen, a native of New City, New York. "So to take them down at Hinkle is really amazing. But like Coach said, we don't want this to be the highlight of our season."

The Wildcats really didn't play that poorly.

Jalen Brunson matched his career high with 31 points and Mikal Bridges had 21 to help Villanova storm back from a 23-point deficit to get within six with 1:33 left. But Brunson missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with a chance to make it a four-point game 12 seconds later and the Wildcats couldn't get any closer.

Butler made seven 3s in the final minutes of the first half to take a 53-45 lead then made all five of their 3s in the second half. When the Wildcats started defending the arc, Butler took advantage with a bevy of layups and dunks, extending the lead to 81-58 with 10:23 left.

"They adjusted to us on the line and started taking away the 3s, so we had to drive to the basket and attack in different ways," Butler coach LaVall Jordan said. "We made the adjustment and stayed on the attack."

Villanova countered with full-court pressure and when Butler started throwing the ball away, the Wildcats ran off 14 straight points to make it 84-76 with 5:04 to go.

They just couldn't quite finish it off.

"We've got a lot of room to improve," Bridges said. "We're definitely going to get better."

Big picture
Villanova: The Wildcats have lost five times over the last two seasons -- three times to Butler. They'll meet again Feb. 10. But explaining those losses -- all with Villanova ranked No. 1 or No. 2 and all by eight points -- sounds incomprehensible.

Butler: Jordan got his first big win since returning to his alma mater. The win certainly helps the Bulldogs' tourney resume and the entertaining performance on national television could help with recruiting, too. But Jordan wants to see his team start playing this way consistently.

Key numbers
Villanova: Donte DiVincenzo had 16 points and Eric Paschall had 15. ... Omari Spellman had nine rebounds while Brunson added five assists. ... The Wildcats only had four turnovers and outscored Butler 52-30 in the paint.

Butler: Baldwin had 19 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. ... The Bulldogs had nine of their 13 turnovers in the last 10 minutes. ... They also had a 37-26 rebounding edge. ... Butler is 9-0 at home this season.

Project 44
Jordan wore a special T-shirt over his dress shirt and tie Saturday to remind people about the need to donate bone marrow through Project 44, which honors the late Andrew Smith.

Smith, who played on Butler's two Final Four teams, died in January 2016 after battling cancer. He was 25. His widow, Samantha, and one of Smith's former teammates, Chase Stigall, whose donation helped save a young boy, spoke to the crowd during the first media timeout.

"That was a lot of fun," Jordan said. "Two wins for the Butler family."

Up next
Villanova: The Wildcats get a short break before hosting Marquette next Saturday, ending a 37-day stretch with only one home game.

Butler: Renews its rivalry at No. 6 Xavier on Tuesday.

Villanova still sitting pretty in the AP poll

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Villanova still sitting pretty in the AP poll

Villanova is getting pretty accustomed to this whole No. 1 thing.

For the fifth time in the last six weeks, head coach Jay Wright's Wildcats are No. 1 in the AP poll, receiving 63 of 65 first-place votes this time around. This week's spot on college basketball's top perch came after a successful week that saw the 'Cats smother then-No.10 Xavier, 89-65, on Wednesday evening at the Wells Fargo Center. The Musketeers fell to No. 11 after the defeat. Villanova followed that up by holding off a feisty St. John's squad, 78-71, at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.

The Wildcats sport this No. 1 ranking heading into their own rivalry week this week. They head to Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to battle historic Big East rival Georgetown, led by first-year head coach and Hoya great Patrick Ewing. The Hoyas are 12-5 on the season, but just 2-4 in conference play. They most recently fell to No. 19 Seton Hall this past Saturday. After that, it's on to Connecticut for an old-school Big East matchup with the Huskies. The teams last met in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, a game UConn won on its way to the national championship. Villanova, though, holds a 33-31 all-time advantage.

As for the rest of this week's top five, Virginia moved up a spot to No. 2, Purdue jumped up to No. 3, Oklahoma shot up five spots to No. 4. and Duke crept up to No. 5.

Click here to view this week's top 25 poll in its entirety.

No. 1 Villanova holds off St. John's

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No. 1 Villanova holds off St. John's

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Donte DiVincenzo hit six 3-pointers and scored 25 points to help No. 1 Villanova silence a rowdy New York crowd and hold off upset-minded St. John's 78-71 on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

Shammorie Ponds came close to leading the Red Storm (10-8, 0-6 Big East) to their first win over a No. 1 team in 33 years. Ponds scored a career-high 37 points in front of 17,123 fans at the Garden.

Ponds punished his body as he crashed the lane for tough buckets -- going up-and-under and seemingly straight through defenders -- over the final 10 minutes that cut it to 69-65 with 1:18 left. He sank a rare jumper (all his field goals were 2-pointers) that pulled St. John's within 71-67, and suddenly the chants of "Let's Go Nova!" were drowned out by cheers for the Red Storm.

The Wildcats (16-1, 4-1) were flawless from the free-throw line over the final minute to avoid the startling upset.

Ponds, a 6-foot-1 guard who scored 31 points against Missouri in November, took just about every shot for the Red Storm down the stretch.

Once called the Michael Jordan of Delaware by coach Jay Wright, DiVincenzo simply wouldn't let the Red Storm get too close. Each time St. John's seemed set to start a game-changing run over the final 7 minutes, DiVincenzo buried 3s, hitting three that gave the Wildcats leads of nine, 10 and 11.

Mikal Bridges had 15 points and 11 rebounds for Villanova. The Wildcats went 13-for-30 on 3-point range.

Ponds was a one-man band for St. John's. No other player scored in double figures and his 15 baskets were two more than the rest of the team.

Jalen Brunson and Bridges hit 3s early in the second half to start to build a cushion and DiVincenzo added another 3 for a 10-point lead. That completed a torrid stretch of eight 3s on Villanova's last eight attempts.

St. John's hit one 3 the entire game -- one! -- and that snuffed any chance at a win. St. John's hung around for most of the first half and put checks in the boxes of things needed to do to beat Villanova.

Tariq Owens had a big block on Bridges under the basket that brought a packed MSG crowd to its feet. Bryan Trimble Jr. buried a 3 for a 20-17 lead and Brunson, one of the top players in the nation, fumbled the ball on the next possession. The Wildcats, who have seemingly fixed the defensive troubles that plagued them the last month, lost their 3-point stroke, missing 8 of their first 10 attempts.

The Wildcats pulled themselves together and showed why they're again the elite team in the Big East. DiVincenzo hit two 3s and scored eight straight points to give them the lead for good and Omari Spellman hit a 3 to send Villanova into halftime with a 34-27 lead.

BIG PICTURE
St. John's: Yes, the Red Storm were actually 10-2 on Dec. 20 and off to one of their best starts in two decades before this tailspin started. The Red Storm lost all three games on this homestand and there's little sign there will be an immediate turnaround. St. John's hasn't defeated a No. 1 team since Chris Mullin was in uniform, not the coach. St. John's beat No. 1 Georgetown 66-65 on Jan. 26, 1985.

Villanova: The Wildcats won their 13th straight game in the series. Villanova, the 2016 national champions, is rolling toward its fifth straight Big East regular season championship.

UP NEXT
Villanova puts its No. 1 ranking on the line Wednesday at Georgetown.

The Red Storm play another Top 25 team when they visit No. 10 Xavier on Wednesday.