No. 1 Villanova learns lessons from 1st loss of season
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Villanova coach Jay Wright and star player Josh Hart sat next to one another in the postgame news conference Wednesday night.
No tears were shed, no voices were raised, no complaints were uttered.
After losing for the first time in almost 10 months, the top-ranked Wildcats weren't angry - they were resolute about fixing what went wrong in a 66-58 loss at No. 18 Butler .
''It wasn't one thing, they just did more than us tonight,'' Wright coach. ''Over the course of the game, hitting a shot here, an extra pass there, they did a better job than us.''
Aside from Villanova's worst shooting performance of the season (37.3 percent), which trickled down through the bench, the numbers didn't reveal any glaring flaws.
Six turnovers, 14 of 17 on free throws, a 26-22 advantage on points in the paint and one more 3-pointer than Butler.
The bigger problem was what showed up on the play-by-play sheet - a sequence that will haunt these Wildcats (14-1, 2-1 Big East) in the film room until they play Marquette on Saturday.
Twenty-five seconds after Villanova took a 52-51 lead with 3:22 left, Kethan Savage beat his defender for a layup that gave Butler the lead for good with 2:59 to play.
Over those final minutes, the Wildcats made the only 2-pointer they took, a layup, missed all four 3-point attempts and allowed the Bulldogs (13-2, 2-1) to convert two turnovers into five crucial points.
And when Villanova had to foul, the Bulldogs simply didn't miss. They finished 15 of 15 from the free-throw line.
''Obviously, you don't like to lose,'' Hart said after scoring 13 points for the third time this season. ''We've just got to build on it.''
Now that the perfect season has ended, the longest winning streak in the nation is over at 20 and the five-week run atop the polls may end Monday, the Wildcats can start focusing on more pressing matters anyway - like winning a second straight national championship.
And Villanova still has a strong enough foundation to pull it off.
Hart, the preseason All-American, simply had a bad night. So did Kris Jenkins, the hero of last season's title run. Combined they were 7 of 22 from the field and 4 of 14 on 3-pointers, and that doesn't happen most nights.
Wright's usually stingy defense managed to hold one of the nation's top shooting teams to 45 percent, to 5 of 20 on 3s and 66 points. Normally, that's good enough for a win.
But down the stretch, the Wildcats were outplayed - and that's something they can't allow to happen again.
''I've just got to make the right play,'' Hart said. ''I can't force shots. I've got to make sure I make the extra pass when I have to.''
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