No. 11 Villanova outlasts Butler in OT thriller to open Big East play
December 31st, 2013 (AP) – JayVaughn Pinkston had a chance to win the game in regulation for No. 11 Villanova, and missed.
He had to settle for making sure the Wildcats got an overtime road win.
Pinkston scored 20 points, including the clinching free throws in overtime, as Villanova overcame a rally by Butler for a 76-73 victory Tuesday night.
The Bulldogs were aiming for a marquee victory in their Big East debut. But the Wildcats (12-1, 1-0), still stinging from Saturday’s loss at No. 2 Syracuse, wouldn’t be denied.
Even if it took an extra 5 minutes to get the win.
After Kellen Dunham’s jumper with 21 seconds to play in regulation tied the game at 66-66, Pinkston had a shot at the game-winning jumper. But he missed and Butler’s Erik Fromm grabbed the rebound, forcing overtime.
“I said to him, `We’ll go down every time with you taking that shot,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said he told Pinkston, who struggled in the second half against Syracuse.
“We made adjustments in the second half of the Syracuse game and that was my fault,” Wright said. “We didn’t get him the ball enough. … He didn’t complain about it, he just played hard today.”
Pinkston credited his defensive effort for a better mindset against the Bulldogs (10-3, 0-1).
“Coach told me I’m a go-to player on the team,” Pinkston said. “He put me in great position to score the ball, but everything came with my defense. We got key stops at the end on two blocked shots which got us to the free throw line.”
The first half was back and forth even with Butler’s top two scorers spending significant time on the bench. Khyle Marshall, whose 17.0 scoring average was second on the team coming in, played just 2 minutes in the first half after picking up two quick fouls.
And Dunham, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer with an 18.1 average, played just 10 minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls.
“Any time you’re playing tough guys you’re going to have to play against that physicality,” first-year Butler coach Brandon Miller said.
Marshall’s absence gave freshman Elijah Brown the chance to shine. He scored 13 of his season-high 19 points in the first half, making 7 -of 8 from the free throw line.
“I’ve just been trying to make my game more versatile, and some of that is not settling for jumpers,” said Brown, who reached double digits for the first time in his last five games.
But it was Dunham whose heroics helped Butler rally to force overtime. He finished with 22 points, and in addition to hitting the tying jumper to force overtime, he made two layups in the final 30 seconds of overtime to pull the Bulldogs within 74-73.
After forcing a turnover, the Bulldogs had a chance to go ahead. But Dunham missed a 3-pointer, and after an offensive rebound set up an inbounds play for Butler with 5 seconds left, the Bulldogs were unable to successfully inbound the ball.
“I thought it was a decent enough pass to catch, obviously I muffed it,” Dunham said.
Pinkston hit two free throws, and the Wildcats dropped Butler to 2/3 against ranked teams at home since 2009-10. This was also Butler’s first loss in seven home games this season.
“That was so much fun,” Wright said. “Us being here (at Hinkle Fieldhouse) the first time, the fans are awesome, they’re a great team.
“We had to play really well to beat them and we did.”
Darrun Hilliard scored 15 points and Josh Hart added 10 for the Wildcats.
There were 10 lead changes in the first half, with Hilliard hitting two free throws with 5 seconds left to give the Wildcats a 35-34 halftime lead.
Villanova took a 43-34 lead before a layup by Kameron Woods and a 3-pointer by Fromm broke the Wildcats’ run, but Butler could never quite catch up until a 3-pointer by Brown put Butler ahead 64-63 with just over 5 minutes to play.
Pinkston answered with a jumper, and the Wildcats would lead until Dunham’s game-tying shot with 21 seconds to go.
*Photo courtesy of Michael Hickey/Getty Images