Villanova uses big runs to put away Butler, 67-48

Posted: February 28, 2014

In honoring Villanova's veteran players on senior night, the sellout crowd at the Pavilion wanted a gift of its own - watching James Bell score the 1,000th point of his career.

It mattered only to the crowd that Bell fell six points short Wednesday night, scoring 11 in the eighth-ranked Wildcats' 67-48 Big East win over Butler that gave the home team a record-tying 25th regular-season victory.

Falling short of 1,000 didn't matter to Bell, a 6-foot-6 senior who is a top contender for Big Five player of the year. As for Wildcats coach Jay Wright, well, it did and it didn't.

"You know, I had no clue," Wright said. "It would have been nice on senior night. I really don't care. It would have been nice, but I wouldn't have done anything different. He could have made more shots."

Bell was only 3 for 10 on an uneven shooting night for the Wildcats (25-3, 13-2 Big East), who sank just 7 of 29 attempts (24.1 percent) from beyond the arc but 16 of 29 (55.2 percent) from closer.

Bell received plenty of help as four other Wildcats scored eight points or more, led by Darrun Hilliard's 11. He'll get another chance Sunday against Marquette at the Wells Fargo Center, so Wednesday night didn't faze him.

"No, not at all," he said.

The Wildcats overcame poor starts - 4 for 19 in the first half, 4 for 15 in the second - with the help of their defense, and put together spurts to open up some distance on the Bulldogs (12-16, 2-14), who have struggled in their first year in the conference.

Villanova made five straight shots in a 20-6 run late in the first half that resulted in a 34-20 halftime lead. Then in the second half after Butler got as close as 39-28, the Wildcats outscored the visitors by 21-3, going 9 of 13 from the field during that stretch.

Daniel Ochefu's bank shot with 6 minutes, 51 seconds remaining gave Villanova its largest lead, 60-31.

"Butler is a tough, scrappy team that's not going to let you play pretty," Wright said. "You've got to find a way to grind against them, and I thought we did. We didn't make shots . . . but I thought our defense was really strong, and I liked how hard we played."

When it was over, the seniors - Bell, Tony Chennault, and Nick McMahon - all climbed the press table and led the student section in the Villanova fight song.

Wright said he got emotional before, during, and after the game. As for Bell, there was business to take care of.

"I don't see my mom that much," said Bell, who is from Orlando. "My dad works a lot, and he doesn't get a chance to get here much. The toughest part was seeing my mom crying. But other than that, it was time to play. We had a goal as a team and it was time to go."


jjuliano@phillynews.com

@joejulesinq

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