By Peter Gleason
Unranked Butler stunned No. 1 Villanova yesterday 101-93, and the Big East conference is up for grabs.
Or is it?
This was the second time in 2017 that the top-ranked Wildcats fell to Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse. And on Saturday, just like on Jan. 4, Butler ruined Villanova’s flawless record.
Butler drained 15 3-pointers. The bombing barrage gave Bulldogs fans one of the most surprising revelations their team has pulled off in recent seasons. Butler almost never beats opponents by burying 3 after 3 after 3.
And Butler needed those 3’s, building a 22-point cushion, because Villanova rolled into a 14-0 run late in to the second half that cut the lead to as close as six in the final minute.
The game seemed to turn with approximately 3 minutes to go in the first half, when Butler laid a long-range assault on Nova. The Bulldogs led 53-45 at the break, shooting 59 percent from 3 (10 for 17) including some sniper shots from Paul Jorgensen (above), who had 16 at the half and finished with 23 points. His 3-point from approximately 35 feet out made the Butler crowd explode.
The second half was nearly equal parts methodical for Butler and devastating for Villanova. Butler made another 5 3-pointers, but also established a 22-point lead midway through the second half thanks to some killer back cuts. The Bulldogs have made the past three NCAA Tournaments, and a win like this could help ensure they get to a fourth.
The big difference this season is who’s in charge. A sellout crowd of 9,244 watched LaVall Jordan get his first signature win at Butler’s coach. For Jordan and his team, yesterdaywas the initiation into big-time Big East play and could be the victory that kick-starts a new era for this program under a Bulldog alumnus.