Behind 'tactical' fans, Butler snaps Villanova's 20-game win streak

Behind 'tactical' fans, Butler snaps Villanova's 20-game win streak

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Wildcats have been carrying it around with them since Kris Jenkins’ three-pointer cemented his place in Villanova and college basketball history for all of eternity.

Through the offseason, and in each of the 15 games thus far, the 'Cats have lugged it around with them.

To Villanova, its fans, alumni and students, it’s the No. 1, proudly placed right next to the school’s name in the college basketball rankings, exactly where Jenkins and the 2015-16 ‘Cats left it nine months ago, on that historic night in Houston.

But to everyone else, it’s a giant target, peppered with each of Villanova’s opponents' best shot, its bullseye barely noticeable from all the abuse.

On Wednesday night, Butler fans at Hinkle Fieldhouse might as well have been salivating when the top-ranked ‘Cats took the floor.

Fans of the No. 18 Bulldogs started in early and often, and nobody was spared. For the entire 40 minutes of Wednesday night’s Big East contest, Butler fans poured it on Villanova’s players, the referees, and most of all, Jay Wright. And it didn’t go unnoticed.

As Wright addressed the media after the 66-58 loss (see Instant Replay), a slight grin grew on his face when comparing the Butler crowd to that of Villanova’s most recent opponent prior to Wednesday night, Creighton.

“[Creighton’s and Butler’s arenas] are tough, but there’s a great passion for basketball [at Butler],” Wright said. “Creighton is a little more euphoric. This place, this is a little more tactical in their cheering.”

“Tactical” is putting it lightly. After a disagreement with a call by one of the referees midway through the first half, Wright spun into a manic state of anger, having to be held back by players and coaches, earning a technical foul.

From that moment on, the Butler student section just 12 feet from the end of the Villanova bench chanted “Jay Wright sucks” at every opportunity throughout the rest of the game.

The student section’s effort to get into Wright’s head was hardly the highlight of Butler’s sellout crowd. The 'Cats entered on a 20-game winning streak, the longest in school history, accompanying Villanova’s No. 1 ranking. The energy inside Hinkle Fieldhouse made every Butler basket feel like it had the magnitude of Jenkins’ three-pointer in Houston. Whether Butler was chipping away at a six- or eight-point lead, tying the game or taking the lead, the reaction to every make was indicative of what was truly at stake — taking down No. 1.

“It was an unbelievable environment. It was the loudest I’ve ever heard Hinkle in my short time here,” Butler coach Chris Holtmann said. “Our guys fed off that. We always do. Our crowd and the energy it brought, it was major. I think we only had eight assists — [the crowd] deserves at least one of them.”

The crowd took the noise to an even higher level in the final 1:50 when sure-handed Villanova committed two of its six turnovers on the night. Kris Jenkins attempted a cross-court pass that was intercepted and Josh Hart grabbed a rebound before having it swiped by Kamar Baldwin, who followed with an up-and-under layup for a six-point Butler lead with 57 seconds remaining.

“You have schools with great basketball tradition that expect to win. When they play at home, they really expect to win,” Wright said. “When you look at the results, they played really good team defense. I was very impressed. Wasn’t one of our best night’s defensively. They run some good stuff. They all share the ball, you can look at the balance. That broke down our defense a little bit."

As the clock hit zero, the crowd was so loud that it masked the sound of the buzzer. Students from each of Butler’s cheering sections stormed the court, meeting at halfcourt to jump up and down with the Bulldogs, emphatically celebrating the victory.

Afterward, Hart was asked whether being the defending national champions, the No. 1 team in the country and riding a 20-game winning streak felt like a giant target on the back of every Wildcat thus far throughout the season.

“No. Not really … we don’t really feel … um, no,” Hart said, trying to find a way to explain it best.

“I don’t think there’s any added motivation that we’re No. 1 and defending champions,” Hart added. “We knew before this year that we were going to get every team’s best shot.”

On Wednesday night, the Wildcats got the Bulldogs’ best shot on the court and from all angles of the crowd. But make no mistake of it, while Butler left its mark on the bullseye of that giant target on Villanova’s backs, it isn’t going anywhere. And the Wildcats should want it that way.

Penn fails to clinch Ivy tournament spot in 70-67 loss at Columbia

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Penn fails to clinch Ivy tournament spot in 70-67 loss at Columbia

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NEW YORK -- Mike Smith scored 20 points, including a key 3-pointer with a minute left, Luke Petrasek added 17 with a blocked shot as time ran out, and Columbia edged Penn 70-67 in a critical Ivy League game on Saturday night.

The Lions (11-14) and Quakers (12-13) are both 5-7 and tied for fourth in league play with a week to go. This is the first season the Ivy League has a postseason tournament with the top four teams qualifying.

Neither team led by double figures, their statistics were almost identical and there were 11 ties and 10 lead changes, although Columbia took the lead for good on a Nate Hickman's free throws with 10:27 remaining during an 8-0 run.

Hickman gave Columbia a 67-60 lead -- the largest of the second half -- on a 3-pointer with 5:37 to go. The Lions then went 4:11 without a basket, missing seven-straight shots. Ryan Betley's free throws pulled the Quakers within 2 before Smith hit is trey at 1:04.

Betley made two free throws and after a Columbia miss the Quakers had two 3 attempts with Petrasek saving the day.

AJ Brodeur and Jackson Donahue had 16 each for Penn.

Temple snaps 3-game losing streak with double OT win over Tulane

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Temple snaps 3-game losing streak with double OT win over Tulane

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Temple's wild 86-76 double-overtime victory against Tulane on Saturday snapped a three-game losing streak (see Instant Replay)

The win, however, was not easy after Tulane's Malik Morgan hit a deep three as time expired to force a second overtime.

"Not again," Temple senior forward Daniel Dingle said. "We're not leaving this gym until we get a win."

Temple's mistake of not picking Morgan up after two made free throws cost the Owls and was not the plan for head coach Fran Dunphy. 

"We said we wanna pick them up as soon as we can and not allow a go-by," Dunphy said. "If someone's going by you, chest them, but don't let them get a full head of steam going towards the basket and Shizz (Alston Jr.) kind of backed off him. Obviously, Morgan made a great shot."

Temple (15-15, 6-11 AAC) received a big lift from its seniors on Senior Day, as Dingle and forward Mark Williams combined for 33 points and 14 points against the Green Wave (5-23, 2-14 AAC).

Williams' play in the waning moments of regulation and throughout overtime also showed his savvy as a veteran on this team. Down 65-63 with 11 seconds left, Alston Jr. missed a jump shot, but Williams tapped the ball back to Alston Jr., who put in a layup to tie the game at 65.

"I couldn't get it, so I seen him and I just tipped it," Williams said. "He grabbed it and it was just right place at the right time."

To start overtime, Williams scored two quick buckets after an early Tulane free throw to take 69-66 lead with 2:51 left. The Owls and Green Wave went back and forth in the first overtime period, which ultimately culminated in a 71-71 tie and another overtime.

At the start of the second overtime period, it was all Owls. They scored seven quick points, which included a dunk by freshman Quinton Rose to start the period, a three pointer from Alston Jr. (who had 25 points, eight rebounds and five assists) off a Tulane miss and block-dunk sequence from junior forward Obi Enechionyia. The 78-71 lead with 3:20 left helped spark a 15-5 run Temple used to close the game.

At the 2:28 mark in the second overtime period, Williams fouled out, and walked off the Liacouras Center floor for the final time in a Temple uniform, inciting a standing ovation.

"I love my teammates, I love these guys," Williams said, who finished with 20 points and six rebounds. "[Standing ovation] was like the last time, it's like you moved out of your childhood house."

Because it was Senior Day, the Owls started all of their seniors, including Mike Robbins, who, in his first career start, scored seven points during a career-high 22 minutes.

Robbins provided Temple a spark early, scoring all seven of his points in a 17-4 Temple start in the first 4:25 of the game, including a baseline reverse layup that got the Owls' faithful on their feet.

"It felt good to get back out there and make some shots," Robbins said. "The crowd was terrific. After the game everybody thanked me for all my hard work."

After losing three straight games, the Owls recognized that this was a must-win game, as they look to finish the season strong. 

"We needed to win and we did, we found a way to win," Dunphy said.

"This game meant a lot to us as a whole," Dingle said "Now we're playing USF next [and then the] conference tournament and hopefully this win gives us some momentum. Right now, we're not worried about the wins and losses, what our record says."