Butler rallies to stun No. 2 Villanova Bulldogs beat defending champs for second time.
Butler coach Chris Holtmann told his players to expect to be punched in the mouth playing on the road against one of the best teams in the nation.
The Bulldogs took the punch – and then delivered a knockout blow.
Kelan Martin scored 22 points and fueled a stunning second-half rally to lead No. 22 Butler past No. 2 Villanova 74-66 on Wednesday night, snapping the Wildcats’ on-campus home winning streak at 48 games.
Kamar Baldwin added 15 points for the Bulldogs (22-6, 11-5 Big East), who have handed the defending national champion Wildcats two of their three losses this season.
“We’ve never won here,” Holtmann said. “Not many people have. It’s certainly a significant regular-season win for our program to beat a top two team on the road.”
Jalen Brunson scored 24 points and Josh Hart had 18 for Villanova (26-3, 13-3), which came into the game having already clinched at least a share of their fourth straight Big East regular-season championship.
The game marked the first time Hart and fellow seniors Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds lost a game at the Pavilion in their four-year careers.
“I’m really proud of them,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “You can tell a lot about guys when they get beat how they compete. And our guys competed until the last second. We’ve got great seniors.”
With Villanova leading by seven with 10:30 remaining, Butler scored the game’s next 18 points to take a 60-49 lead. Martin led the comeback effort with nine points during that stretch, including two three-pointers.
Despite a frenetic ‘Nova press, Butler held on with some clutch free throw shooting down the stretch to snap Villanova’s seven-game winning streak.
“When they got down, they didn’t crack at all,” Wright said. “They just kept executing. We didn’t crack either. We just couldn’t get buckets against them.
“It wasn’t that we weren’t good,” he added. “They were just a better team than us tonight.”
The Bulldogs also upset then-No. 1 Villanova in Hinkle Fieldhouse on Jan. 4. They gave the defending champs even more fits Wednesday at the Pavilion, the Wildcats’ on-campus home where they hadn’t lost since Feb. 3, 2013, against Providence.
Playing without starting center Reynolds (rib injury) for the fourth straight game and using a six-man rotation most of the way, the Wildcats missed their first six shots and committed four turnovers before the opening TV timeout.
Villanova didn’t take its first lead until Brunson hit a contested three-pointer from the top of the key with just under 1 minute left in the first half.
The Wildcats led by as many as eight points early in the second half before the Bulldogs flipped the script and stunned a sold-out Pavilion crowd.
“Coach told us (their seniors hadn’t lost here) during shootaround,” said Martin, who added eight rebounds and shot 7 for 11 from the field. “We wanted to be the first team to beat them.”