Eighteen minutes into a game in which it often seemed like Butler couldn’t miss, junior guard Paul Jorgensen decided to test that theory.
He pulled up in transition from closer to the mid-court stripe than the 3-point arc and let a 35-foot heat check fly.
That Jorgensen sunk the shot was a perfect metaphor for Butler’s 101-93 upset victory over previously unbeaten, top-ranked Villanova. The Bulldogs toppled the four-time reigning Big East champions with a display of long-range shooting they’re not likely to duplicate anytime soon.
A Butler team that entered Saturday’s game 239th in the nation in 3-point shooting buried 15-of-22 attempts from behind the arc against Villanova, including many with a defender’s outstretched hand in the face. Forward Kelan Martin and guard Kamar Baldwin, both 28.1 percent shooters from behind the arc this season, combined for seven 3-pointers, while the sharpshooting Jorgensen added four more.
When Villanova extended its defense to try to take away the 3-point shot, Butler responded by carving up the Wildcats with backdoor cuts. The Bulldogs built their lead to as many as 23 points midway through the second half and never let the hard-charging Wildcats get any closer than within six in the final minutes.
Villanova coach Jay Wright on the buzz-saw his team ran into today at Hinkle: "This is the best offensive team we’ve played against, and it showed. We’ve just been outscoring people, and you weren’t outscoring this (Butler) team tonight."
— Gregg Doyel (@GreggDoyelStar) December 30, 2017
Butler’s victory is easily the biggest new coach LaVall Jordan has notched since taking over for Chris Holtmann last summer. The Bulldogs (12-3, 2-0) struggled to score efficiently for stretches of the non-conference season, managing only 48 points in a late-November loss to Texas and shooting well under 40 percent in a loss to Maryland about a week earlier.
Saturday’s victory might not elevate Butler into contention to dethrone Villanova in the Big East this season, but it does put the Bulldogs on track to return to the NCAA tournament. They already have quality wins over Utah, Ohio State and Villanova and no losses to any team outside the KenPom top 50.
Surrendering over 100 points was a surprise for a Villanova program that had only done so three previous times under Jay Wright, but suffering its first loss of the season at Hinkle Pavilion shouldn’t have been. After all, the very same thing happened to the Wildcats last season when they fell 66-58 at Butler on Jan. 4.
Don’t blame Villanova’s offense for Saturday’s loss. Point guard Jalen Brunson scored 31 points, wing Mikal Bridges added 21 and the Wildcats (13-1, 1-1) averaged 1.29 points per possession, typically more than enough for them to secure a victory.
The silver lining for Villanova should be that Wright can use this outcome to motivate his team on the defensive end of the floor.
Outscoring opponents had been enough for the Wildcats to storm to a 13-0 record and ascend to the top of the polls. On Saturday came a timely reminder that there will be games when the opponent catches fire and Villanova can’t win with offense alone.
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