Indianapolis, IN (SportsNetwork.com) - The top two teams in the Big East Conference mix it up on Saturday evening, as the sixth-ranked Villanova Wildcats take on the 18th-ranked Butler Bulldogs at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Villanova continues to enjoy one of the finest seasons in program history, as it comes into this contest sporting a 22-2 overall record, which includes a 9-2 league ledger. The first-place Wildcats are in the midst of a five-game win streak, with their latest triumph coming in a 74-68 verdict at Providence on Wednesday night. The win improved VU to 17-0 this season when scoring at least 70 points, and it is 41-1 when doing so since the start of the 2013-14 campaign.
Butler improved to 18-6 on the year and 8-3 in the Big East with an 87-73 victory over visiting DePaul last weekend. It was also the fifth consecutive win for the Bulldogs, who are 4-2 this season against teams ranked in the Top-25 and are seeking their 13th win in 14 tries at home. The Wildcats are the highest-ranked team to visit Hinkle Fieldhouse since Feb. 23, 1981, when the Bulldogs entertained No. 3 DePaul.
This bout marks just the fifth meeting between these two teams, and Villanova has won each of the first four, including all three since Butler joined the Big East. In the first matchup this season on the Wildcats' home court back on Dec. 31, Ryan Arcidiacono scored 15 points and JayVaughn Pinkston added 13 more to help the Wildcats claim a 67-55 victory. Three players reached double figures for the Bulldogs, who shot just 35.5 percent from the floor while being outscored at the foul line, 16-5.
Arcidiacono scored a season-high 20 points to lead the Wildcats to victory earlier this week at Providence. He was joined in double figures by Daniel Ochefu with 19 points to go with nine rebounds, Darrun Hilliard with 16 points and Josh Hart with 10. As a team, Villanova made good on an even 50 percent of its total shots and went 27-of-37 at the free-throw line. Conversely, the Friars shot 43.1 percent from the field, draining 8-of-18 3-point tries in the process, and converted 16-of-22 foul shots.
Hilliard averages 13.4 ppg to spearhead what has been a balanced offensive attack by the Wildcats this season, as they boast six players that net at least 9.1 ppg and the team generates 74.8 ppg. Arcidiacono, who is just nine points shy of reaching 1,000 for his career, turns in 10.4 ppg while also serving as VU's primary playmaker with 88 assists, and Ochefu accounts for 9.5 points and a club-best 8.4 caroms per contest. Defensively, the 'Cats allow just 60.2 ppg, with foes shooting a mere 29.9 percent from distance, all while committing an average of 15 turnovers per outing.
Butler, which has been idle for a week, used a pair of solid scoring efforts from Kellen Dunham (24 points) and Roosevelt Jones (20 points) to knock off visiting DePaul last Saturday. The Bulldogs, who also received 16 points from Andrew Chrabascz and got eight assists from Alex Barlow, converted half of their field goal attempts, which included an 8-of-14 showing beyond the arc. BU went 21-of-30 at the foul line and claimed a 31-25 rebounding edge, but allowed the Blue Demons to hit nine treys and watched as they stayed in contention by going 18-of-23 at the charity stripe.
The Bulldogs are outscoring their opponents by more than 10 ppg this season, doing so by holding them to just 28.6 percent accuracy out on the perimeter and by forcing more than 13 miscues per contest. The team is fortunate to have three double-digit scorers in Dunham (16.7 ppg), Jones (13.0 ppg) and Chrabascz (11.2 ppg), while Kameron Woods paces Butler's rebounding effort with 9.5 per tilt. As a collective unit, the Bulldogs are winning the battle on the boards by 5.8 rpg.