Butler-Villanova Preview

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Josh Hart has been efficient as Villanova's top scoring option in his first full season as a starter while leading the team in scoring and shooting at one of the best rates in the Big East.

He's also had plenty of help on the rare occasions when he had an off night.

Hart's big effort helped the top-ranked Wildcats beat Butler in the first meeting last month, and they'll look to run their winning streak to seven while remaining perfect all-time against the visiting Bulldogs on Saturday.

The junior started two of his first 70 games for Villanova (23-3, 12-1) but has taken on a larger role this season, starting each contest and averaging 14.8 points with a 50.5 field-goal percentage that ranks second in the conference.

Hart hasn't been at his best over the last two, though, scoring seven against St. John's on Saturday before finishing with four Wednesday at Temple. He went 3 for 15 from the field in those contests after scoring in double figures in each of the first 24.

Daniel Ochefu stepped up with a career-high 25 points in the 73-63 win over the Red Storm, and freshman Jalen Brunson matched that total for his season high in the 83-67 victory over the Owls.

Ochefu and Brunson are averaging 10.7 points apiece, joining Hart, Ryan Arcidiacono (12.1) and Kris Jenkins (10.9) in double figures on the season. Ochefu had 16 against Temple and Jenkins scored 15, but coach Jay Wright especially was impressed with the performances of Brunson and reserve Phil Booth, who added 12 points.

"It was just one of those games where they were taking Arch away from us and did a great job on Josh Hart," Wright said. "That's why I think Booth and Jalen both got it going. I think Jalen took the plays that came to him. I don't think he did anything other than he normally does. He just took the opportunities that were there."

Hart's 22 points helped Villanova hold off then-No. 18 Butler 60-55 on Jan. 10 as it improved to 6-0 in a series that dates to 1996, with the last five matchups coming since the new Big East was formed in 2013-14.

The Bulldogs (18-8, 7-7) led by six at halftime but fell short despite Roosevelt Jones' 20 points. Five of their losses in conference play have come against ranked opponents, dropping them to a fringe NCAA Tournament team despite an 11-1 start.

Leading scorer Kalen Martin has been on fire lately, though, averaging 23.2 points over his last six after scoring 21 in Tuesday's 88-75 win over Creighton. Austin Etherington added a career-high 17 points off the bench.

The victory helped Butler bounce back after a 74-57 loss to Xavier on Saturday. The Bulldogs, averaging a Big East-high 80.8 points, scored their second-fewest points of the season, just above their lowest total in the first meeting with the Wildcats.

"I'm really proud of this effort," coach Chris Holtmann said. "Our guys responded after a really bad showing on Saturday. I'm really pleased for Austin. His leadership behind the scenes has been critical. Whether it's a minute or 20 minutes a game, he just wants to win."

Jones tied his season low with five points against Xavier before finishing with 12 on Tuesday, but the Wildcats are expecting more from him in this matchup.

"He's so big," Arcidiacono said. "He gets in there, and it's hard to keep him out of the paint. He's really effective."