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Sport Villanova's number is up -- and down -- after Butler barrage

07:05  31 december  2017
07:05  31 december  2017 Source:   sportingnews.com

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Villanova ' s depth problem was put on full display in the Wildcats' loss against Butler on Saturday. INDIANAPOLIS — The clock at Hinkle Fieldhouse showed 8:04 remaining in the first half between Villanova and Butler when Wildcats coach Jay Wright gestured for sophomore forward Tim Delaney

Villanova ' s depth problem was put on full display in the Wildcats' loss against Butler on Saturday.

Video by CBS Sports

INDIANAPOLIS — The clock at Hinkle Fieldhouse showed 8:04 remaining in the first half between Villanova and Butler when Wildcats coach Jay Wright gestured for sophomore forward Tim Delaney to enter the game. This was a more significant moment in the Wildcats season than might have been apparent.

Delaney became the third player off the bench for Villanova in this game; it was the first time all season he'd been subbed in during the opening half. Why him, why now? Because he was who was left at the moment.

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It was always going to be about six guys as the Wildcats pursue their second NCAA championship in three seasons and their fifth consecutive Big East title since the league reformed in 2013. The team’s core of Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Eric Paschall, Phil Booth, Donte DiVincenzo and newcomer Omari Spellman figured to consume all but a smidgen of the minutes in competitive games.

The injuries that have punished the program’s freshman class, leaving only forward Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree available, left Wright little choice in the Wildcats' first defeat of the season.

Butler (12-3) stormed to a 101-93 victory, its third consecutive win in the series, meaning the Wildcats (13-1) will be No. 1 for not even two more days. But that's something Wright cares little about, if at all. He recognizes the schedule broke in such a way — with both No. 17 Arizona and No. 14 Purdue losing early round games at the Battle 4 Atlantis — that staying perfect this long was less daunting than it might have been.

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" Villanova is a team that I grew up watching, watching in the Garden," said Jorgensen, a native of New City, New York. "So to take them down at Hinkle is Villanova countered with full-court pressure and when Butler started throwing the ball away, the Wildcats ran off 14 straight points to make it 84-76

MORE: Villanova ' s number is up — and down — after Butler barrage . So what gives? How can Kansas tackle its free-throw issues? According to 15th-year Jayhawks coach Bill Self, the answer is in the intangibles. The players simply have to get in the paint more.

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What Wright does care about is trying to make another Final Four and winning another national championship. And he remembers how trying to get through last year with seven players in the rotation wore the Wildcats down in the end, resulting in a second-round exit from the NCAA Tournament.

“It happened to us last year, when we lost Omari and we lost Booth, and I thought at the end of the season that really hurt us,” Wright told Sporting News. “Against Wisconsin — they played like 10 guys, were big and physical, and I felt like they wore us down. It wasn’t just the game, it was by that point in the season … guys were physically and mentally drained.

“I have to do a better job of playing these guys. I hate to say it, but even if it costs us a game or two — last year we were right there in every game and I just kept going to win them, and we did win them. But by the end we were dead. Not so much physically as mentally.”

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MORE: Villanova ' s number is up — and down — after Butler barrage . So what gives? How can Kansas tackle its free-throw issues? According to 15th-year Jayhawks coach Bill Self, the answer is in the intangibles. The players simply have to get in the paint more.

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The most recent blow to Villanova’s depth came on Friday, with the announcement that freshman guard Jermaine Samuels would be out as long as two months with a broken hand. This was added to the worsening news about the broken hand of classmate Collin Gillespie, who originally was expected to miss a month but now will be absent for an indefinite period.

So without those two, the Wildcats got only eight minutes from players outside their core six: Cosby-Roundtree played a half-dozen, Delaney just two.

Delaney’s timing in entering the game wasn’t good. Through no particular fault of his own, save for one personal foul he committed while defending the right baseline, Villanova allowed Butler to score eight of the next 10 points. Wright called time and subbed for Delaney, but the Bulldogs’ tear actually accelerated over the time that remained in the half.

Butler scored 22 points in the last 6 minutes, a 147-point pace.

“If anything else had been going on, aside from just an onslaught of 3s — I was just trying to keep it as close as we could and thought, ‘This isn’t the time,’” Wright told SN. “Looking back on it, maybe I should have. Maybe we would have been a little fresh in the end.”

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The Wildcats, which had been one of two remaining undefeated teams (the other team Arizona State), didn’t lose this game because it didn’t have enough guys. They lost because the guys they do have, who ordinarily form one of Division I’s most functional defenses — No. 9 in efficiency according to Kenpom.com — could find no workable method to stop the Bulldogs for the game’s first half-hour.

Eventually, the Wildcats’ zone pressure and the game pressure of trying to protect the lead against the No. 1 team vexed Butler into five turnovers in a 3-minute period. Down 22 points with 8:37 left, Villanova surged to cut the lead to 84-67 with 5:03 remaining, and then to 91-85 with 2:05 remaining and then … well, it could have been 93-89 with 1:19 left, but Brunson missed the front end of a one-and-one.

“We’ve got a lot of room to improve,” Brunson said. “We know what we’ve got to do.

“It’s definitely a lot easier to play harder when you’re down; there’s definitely a sense of urgency. But we’ve got to playing like that all the time. We’ve got to continue to play that hard whether we’re up or down.”

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Brunson scored 31 points. The Wildcats committed only four turnovers. They shot 53.5 percent from the field. But the Bulldogs couldn't miss, and Villanova couldn't make them. There was no moment that summed up the afternoon better than the 3-pointer in transition that transfer guard Paul Jorgensen landed with 1:29 left before halftime, which gave Butler the 8-point lead the team carried into the locker room. Jorgensen launched that shot from somewhere beyond 30 feet, just a step or two inside the Bulldog logo at the center of the Hinkle court.

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“I don’t think there was any thinking to it,” Jorgensen said of the 3.

“We want them to shoot the ball with confidence,” Butler coach Lavall Jordan said. “I don’t know if we practice it from that deep, but Paul is a tremendous shooter.”

There were no more circus shots after the teams returned from the half, but the Bulldogs’ conversion rate from long distance remained ridiculous. They shot 15 of 22 on 3s, with no player who tried one making fewer than two and each of them hitting at least half of his attempts.

“I think they got into their offense much quicker than we got into a defensive mentality,” Wright said. “They were getting shots off before we were — we were there, but we weren’t in a defensive mindset. That’s something we’re going to obviously have to get better at.”

Cosby-Roundtree has played enough for the Wildcats to at least have an idea how much he can help. There will be plenty of time to establish whether Delaney can offer any serious contribution. At 6-9, 230 pounds, he was a top-100 prospect when he entered Villanova in 2015 out of Blair Academy in New Jersey. His freshman season was ruined by surgeries to each of his hips. His second shot at a freshman season was cut short after seven games, again by a hip injury that required surgery.

This was not the sort of game that would offer any clue about his value, not with six national champions and a top-20 recruit struggling through so much of the game and all of their considerable talents required in mounting of that improbable comeback. At some point, though, Wright believes he’ll have to trust more players.

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“I have to figure that out,” Wright said. “We have enough bodies to be a good team. I’ve got to figure out a way.”

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Martin's career-high 37 helps Butler beat Marquette, snap 3-game skid .
Kelan Martin scored a career-high 37 points and Butler snapped a three-game losing streak by beating Marquette 94-83 on Friday night. Martin made four 3-pointers and hit all nine of his free throws while adding seven rebounds for the Bulldogs, who lost their three previous games to ranked opponents after they upset No. 1 Villanova on Dec. 29.BOX SCORE: BUTLER 94, MARQUETTE 83Kamar Baldwin added 19 points and Tyler Wideman 16 with Butler shooting 59 percent and committing just three turnovers.

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