Now healthy, Villanova aims to knock off Butler


Villanova finally appears to be whole.

Justin Moore is back healthy from a torn Achilles suffered in the Elite Eight of last season NCAA Tournament. Jordan Longino is back from a leg injury.

So it’s no surprise that the Wildcats will be aiming for their third consecutive victory when they host Butler on Tuesday.

Villanova (12-13, 6-8 Big East) ousted Seton Hall 58-54 on Saturday in Philadelphia. With a win over the Bulldogs, the Wildcats will be back at .500 and peaking at the right time.

“I think is the first time we have had all our guys the whole year,” Villanova head coach Kyle Neptune said. “I wouldn’t say those guys are 100 percent healthy but it is good to have them back. While they’ve been out, it was good that other guys got some time to grow in their roles and I think it’s paying off for us now.”

Eric Dixon led the Wildcats with 19 points and Caleb Daniels added 18, including his 1,000th career point with the school since transferring from Tulane.

“Caleb was great,” Neptune said. “We all know that he is a scorer. He can get hot and make shots. He’s made a lot of shots the last couple of games. But I think defensively is where he really gives us a boost. His body, his mobility and he had five rebounds. He was big time.”

Butler also will be vying for its third straight win. The Bulldogs (13-13, 5-10) upset then-No. 13 Xavier 69-67 on Friday.

Jayden Taylor led the way with 20 points and Manny Bates added 19. Eric Hunter Jr. drove to the basket and attempted to throw down a dunk with 2.5 seconds left. Goaltending was called and Butler came away with the stirring victory.

“There was no doubt in my mind it would stand,” Bates said. “I just got the screen and wanted to see Eric go finish.”

Taylor has steadily improved and his confidence was evident against the Musketeers.

“I would just say my teammates and coaches trusting me, and just the work I put in,” Taylor said. “I know my teammates know I can make plays, the coaches know. They stressed just be a basketball player. When you’re out there — just play.”

Bates also performed at a high level and was 9-of-10 shooting from the field.

“It’s kind of our emphasis that we try to put inside and out, because I’m starting to get going early,” Bates said. “Coach (Thad Matta) is expecting me to make the right play when it’s needed. If I need to go score, I can score. If someone is open, everyone knows I can find the open man.”

–Field Level Media

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