INDIANAPOLIS: Chuck Harris scored 20 points and Jair Bolden added 15 on Sunday to lead Butler to a 73-61 victory over No. 8 Villanova, which became the sixth top-15 team to lose this weekend.
The Bulldogs (9-13, 8-11 Big East) have won two straight since snapping a three-game losing streak and have beaten the Wildcats in four of the last five meetings in Indianapolis.
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl finished with 16 points and 16 rebounds to lead Villanova (15-4, 10-3), which had won 13 of its previous 15 and was favored by 10 1/2 points. Collin Gillespie had 14 points for the Wildcats, who followed losses on Saturday by No. 2 Baylor, No. 7 Oklahoma, No. 11 Florida State, No. 13 Creighton and No. 14 Texas.
Butler swung the game with defense, limiting the Wildcats to one basket during the final seven minutes of the first half. The Bulldogs took full advantage with a 16-3 run to take a 31-20 lead. They never trailed again.
Villanova charged back early in the second half, cutting a 42-28 deficit in half with a 7-0 flurry that forced Butler to call timeout. The Wildcats got as close as 42-37 with 14:14 to go, but Bolden stopped the run with a 3-pointer, Bryce Golden made three straight baskets for the Bulldogs and Bo Hodges closed out a 12-2 spurt with another 3 that gave Butler a 54-39 lead with 10:40 left.
The Wildcats closed to 57-50 with 6:13 remaining, but Harris and Bolden answered with back-to-back 3s.
Villanova: The loss won’t end the Wildcats’ streak of 30 consecutive weeks in the Top 25. It could, however, impact their conference title hopes and perhaps a shot at earning a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Clearly, Villanova wasn’t itself during the first half shooting 28% from the field, grabbing just one offensive rebound and giving up 34 points.
Butler: This has been largely a lost season for the Bulldogs. They struggled to find consistency between a rash of injuries and six postponed games. But the Bulldogs produced two solid performances this week by beating Seton Hall and now Villanova. If they keep it up, they could make a run in the Big East tournament.
TWO MEN OUT
The Bulldogs seem to have been playing short-handed all season and Sunday was no exception. Starting guard Aaron Thompson missed the game with shoulder and thumb injures and forward Christian David sat out with a knee injury. Thompson and David were two of the seniors honored with highlight packages that played on the scoreboard during timeouts in what could be their final home game.
Villanova: Hosts No. 13 Creighton on Wednesday, a game that could determine the league’s regular-season champ.
Butler: Takes another extended break before closing the regular season Saturday at No. 13 Creighton.
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