No. 11 Villanova defeats Butler in Big East opener

ANDY PROFFET Associated Press Published:

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Butler coach Brandon Miller is getting used to seeing his Bulldogs play close games.

As Butler enters its third conference in as many seasons, he knows they have to continue to find ways to win the close ones.

"We're going to look back, there are a number of different possessions where we could have screened a little better, executed a little better," Miller said after Butler's 76-73 overtime loss to No. 11 Villanova on Tuesday night.

Miller's first season as a head coach coincides with Butler's first season in the Big East.

Butler (10-3, 0-1) left the Horizon League after the 2011-12 season to spend one season in the Atlantic 10.

The Bulldogs' Big East opener showed they can compete in the physical conference, but they still have a ways to go.

Butler has lost by two points twice and then three points on Tuesday night, after rallying to force overtime against the Wildcats.

JayVaughn Pinkston scored 22 points, including the clinching free throws in overtime, after his chance to win the game in regulation fell short.

Kellen Dunham's jumper with 22 seconds to play in regulation lifted Butler into a 66-66 tie. Pinkston had a shot at the game-winning jumper but he missed and Butler's Erik Fromm grabbed the rebound, forcing overtime.

"I said to him, 'We'll go down every time with you taking that shot,'" Villanova coach Jay Wright said he told Pinkston, who struggled in the second half against Syracuse.

"We made adjustments in the second half of the Syracuse game and that was my fault," Wright said. "We didn't get him the ball enough. ... He didn't complain about it, he just played hard today."

Pinkston credited his defensive effort for a better mindset against the Bulldogs (10-3, 0-1).

"Coach told me I'm a go-to player on the team," Pinkston said. "He put me in great position to score the ball, but everything came with my defense. We got key stops at the end on two blocked shots which got us to the free throw line."

The first half was back and forth even with Butler's top two scorers spending significant time on the bench. Khyle Marshall, whose 17.0 scoring average was second on the team coming in, played just 2 minutes in the first half after picking up two quick fouls.

And Dunham, the Bulldogs' leading scorer with an 18.1 average, played just 10 minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls.

"Any time you're playing tough guys you're going to have to play against that physicality," Miller said.

Marshall's absence gave freshman Elijah Brown the chance to shine. He scored 13 of his season-high 19 points in the first half, making 7 -of 8 from the free throw line.

"I've just been trying to make my game more versatile, and some of that is not settling for jumpers," said Brown, who reached double digits for the first time in his last five games.

But it was Dunham whose heroics helped Butler rally to force overtime. He finished with 22 points, and in addition to hitting the tying jumper to force overtime, he made two layups in the final 30 seconds of overtime to pull the Bulldogs within 74-73.

After forcing a turnover, the Bulldogs had a chance to go ahead. But Dunham missed a 3-pointer, and after an offensive rebound set up an inbounds play for Butler with 5 seconds left, the Bulldogs were unable to successfully inbound the ball.

"I thought it was a decent enough pass to catch, obviously I muffed it," Dunham said.

Pinkston hit two free throws, and the Wildcats dropped Butler to 2-3 against ranked teams at home since 2009-10. This was also Butler's first loss in seven home games this season.

Darrun Hilliard scored 15 points and Josh Hart added 10 for the Wildcats.

There were 10 lead changes in the first half, with Hilliard hitting two free throws with 5 seconds left to give the Wildcats a 35-34 halftime lead.