NOVA TAKES BUTLER TO BIG EAST CLEANERS TO GO 13-4!

By Harry Allison

Collin Gillespie hit five 3-pointers and scored 17 points, and Justin Moore had 15 to lead No. 14 Villanova to its sixth straight win, 82-42 over Butler.

“We’re starting to be able to do this for 40 minutes,” coach Jay Wright said.

The Wildcats (13-4, 6-1 in The Big East) are rolling again since dropping their conference opener.

The Wildcats ripped to a 13-2 run start to decide this one by halftime.The only boos all day from the announced crowd of 17,009 — there were many no-shows among that inflated number — came when Buccaneers 7, Eagles 0 was flashed on the big screen.

Butler (9-7, 2-3) had given Wright’s Wildcats fits more than any other team in the Big East since 2016. The Bulldogs’ five wins over that span were the most of any team against Villanova over that span.

Six was never in play.

The Wildcats made their first six baskets and shot 71% in the first half. Gillespie and Eric Dixon each made all four of their shots and Villanova was 5 of 7 on 3s. The Wildcats hit Butler from all over the court: 3s, post-ups, drives for easy dunks — such as Caleb Daniels’ two-handed baseline jam that woke up the crowd.

The Wildcats hit 12 3-pointers.

“We have a lot of growth left in us,” Wright said. “We have a lot of improvements still to make. Part of it is getting balance offensively.”

The Wildcats found balance in this one: Dixon and Jermaine Samuels each scored 14 points and Wright emptied his bench early in the rout.

The Wildcats opened the second half on an 11-0 run and Butler missed 11 straight shots at one point in a rare lopsided mismatch between the programs. Villanova’s numbers were astounding: 19 assists on its first 23 baskets; did not let Butler shoot a free throw in the first half; had 11 3-pointers at the point Butler made just 14 baskets.

The Wildcats shot 50% in the second half and made 10 of 11 free throws in perhaps their most complete game of the season. They stumbled early against rugged competition — losing to AP Top 25 teams UCLA, Purdue and Baylor — but have steadied themselves with complete efforts in conference play.

“We talked about that all the time, making sure that the energy level stays up and that we compete for another 20 minutes, we’ve got to put together a full 40 minutes and I think we did a pretty good job of making sure we were ready to go in the second half,” Gillespie said.

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