Villanova outlasts Butler in OT

Villanova's Ryan Arcidiacono, left, works to defend Butler's Kellen Dunham (24) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Indianapolis. (Doug McSchooler/AP)
Villanova's Ryan Arcidiacono, left, works to defend Butler's Kellen Dunham (24) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Indianapolis. (Doug McSchooler/AP)
Posted: January 02, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS - The new Big East looked like the old Big East on Tuesday night for Villanova, as the 11th-ranked Wildcats dove and scrapped and clawed for everything on both ends of the floor against Butler at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse.

The Wildcats needed overtime and didn't put the game away until JayVaughn Pinkston sank two free throws with 3.1 seconds to play, giving them a 76-73 victory over the Bulldogs.

Coming off its initial loss of the season Saturday against Syracuse, Villanova (12-1) was led by Pinkston with 22 points and Darrun Hilliard added 15. Kellen Dunham scored 22 points to lead the Bulldogs (10-3) and freshman Elijah Brown added a career-high 19.

"Bill Raftery does the interview after the game and says,'Same old Big East, huh?' " Villanova coach Jay wright said. "It was. It's exactly what every Big East game comes down to. That's what it's going to be and I love it. I know basketball people love it. You're not going to see better basketball than that."

Leading by 74-73, the Wildcats gave the Bulldogs a final chance to win the game, turning the ball over after Ryan Arcidiacono fumbled an inbounds pass from Hilliard, who touched the ball before establishing position inbounds. But the Wildcats regained the ball after Hilliard knocked the ball away from Dunham, leading to a held ball with Villanova possession.

Pinkston was fouled, sank both free throws, and intercepted Butler's inbounds pass as the clock ran out.

"We get to watch [Butler] on TV, but to play against them is really cool," Wright said. "They're really smart, really tough. They challenge you in every way. That's why I'm so excited about it because I just thought our guys answered it on the road in a great place."

The Wildcats led throughout the extra period by as many as five points. However, with the score at 74-71, freshman Josh Hart missed two free throws to give the Bulldogs life, and Dunham hit a layup to make it a one-point game with 15.2 seconds left, setting up the tense finish.

Leading by one point at halftime, the Wildcats scored the first eight points of the second half to take their largest lead, 43-34, three minutes into the period. Center Daniel Ochefu, who sat out all but five minutes of the first half with foul trouble, accounted for three baskets and two blocked shots during that stretch.

But the Bulldogs rallied with the help of three consecutive three-point baskets, the last one by Brown that narrowed the Cats' lead to 47-45. After two free throws by Pinkston, Alex Barlow converted a conventional three-point play to make it a one-point game.

The Wildcats scored eight of the next 10 points, with Hart draining back-to-back three-pointers, and took a 60-53 lead on two free throws by Hilliard with 9:56 remaining. But after Hart's second trey, Villanova scored one field goal over the next six minutes, and the Bulldogs rallied with a 7-0 run to take a 64-63 on Brown's three with 5:22 remaining.

The Wildcats shot only one of eight from three-point range in the first half but held a 35-34 lead at the break, thanks to 12-of-17 shooting (70.6 percent) from inside the arc. Pinkston, who was limited to three points in Saturday's loss to Syracuse, sank five of nine attempts from the floor and led 'Nova with 12 points.

Brown picked up the slack with 13 first-half points after the Bulldogs saw their two top scorers, Kellen Dunham and Khyle Marshall, go to the bench early in the half with two personal fouls.

The first half was fast-paced for the most part and close, with nine ties and 10 lead changes. The Wildcats held an early 11-7 lead behind five points by Ryan Arcidiacano, including the team's only trey of the period, but Butler went on a 13-5 run to take a four-point lead of its own, 20-16, on Brown's free throw with 11:54 remaining.


jjuliano@phillynews.com

@joejulesinq

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