Sports

BUTLER 101, No. 1 VILLANOVA 93

Butler’s 3-point shooting brings down top-ranked Villanova

Butler forward Kelan Martin (30) shoots between Villanova defenders Donte DiVincenzo (10) and Mikal Bridges (25) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Indianapolis, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017.(AP Photo/AJ Mast)
AJ Mast/AP
Butler’s Kelan Martin drives for 2 of his 24 points in the upset of Villanova.

INDIANAPOLIS — No. 1 Villanova learned a tough lesson Saturday.

The defense needs to improve dramatically if the Wildcats want to be the nation’s best team.

Kelan Martin scored 24 points, Paul Jorgensen added a career-high 23, and Butler made 15 3-pointers in a 101-93 upset over one of college basketball’s last unbeaten teams.

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‘‘This is the best offense we’ve played so far and it showed,’’ coach Jay Wright said. ‘‘We’ve really been outscoring teams to this point and we weren’t going to outscore this team tonight.’’

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Certainly not against a foe that seems to have a master plan for taking down the Wildcats (13-1, 1-1 Big East).

Almost exactly a year after ending another perfect start to knock Villanova out of the top spot, Butler did it again.

This time, Villanova came into the game allowing 65.8 points and 6.6 threes per game with 10 wins by 14 or more points.

Butler’s shooters blew right past those numbers. Martin and Jorgensen each made four threes, Kamar Baldwin, who flirted with a triple-double, had three, and Henry Baddley and Sean McDermott each made two.

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When it ended, Butler shot 60 percent from the field, including 15 of 22 from beyond the arc, both season-worsts for Villanova. And the Bulldogs posted the highest scoring total against Villanova since Creighton’s 101-80 victory on Feb. 16, 2014.

Afterward, students ignored the school’s pleas to delay storming the court until players had left the floor and the Bulldogs talked about the need to do even bigger and better things.

‘‘Villanova is a team that I grew up watching, watching in the Garden,’’ said Jorgensen, a native of New City, N.Y. ‘‘So to take them down at Hinkle is really amazing. But like Coach said, we don’t want this to be the highlight of our season.’’

The Wildcats really didn’t play that poorly.

Jalen Brunson matched his career high with 31 points and Mikal Bridges had 21 to help Villanova storm back from a 23-point deficit to get within 6 with 1:33 left. But Brunson missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with a chance to make it a 4-point game 12 seconds later and the Wildcats couldn’t get any closer.

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Butler made seven threes in the final minutes of the first half to take a 53-45 lead then made all five of their treys in the second half. When the Wildcats started defending the arc, Butler took advantage with a bevy of layups and dunks, extending the lead to 81-58 with 10:23 left.

‘‘They adjusted to us on the line and started taking away the threes, so we had to drive to the basket and attack in different ways,’’ Butler coach LaVall Jordan said. ‘‘We made the adjustment and stayed on the attack.’’

Villanova countered with full-court pressure and when Butler started throwing the ball away, the Wildcats ran off 14 straight points to make it 84-76 with 5:04 to go.

They just couldn’t quite finish it off.

‘‘We’ve got a lot of room to improve,’’ Bridges said. ‘‘We’re definitely going to get better.’’