PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Donte DiVincenzo scored a career-high 30 points, Jalen Brunson had 27 and No. 1 Villanova bounced back from its second loss of the season, rallying past Butler 86-75 Saturday.
Omari Spellman added 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Wildcats (23-2, 10-2 Big East), who avoided losing consecutive games for the first time since March 2013. The injury-depleted Wildcats were coming off a surprising home loss to last-place St. John’s three days earlier.
Kelan Martin scored 30 and Kamara Baldwin had 25 for Butler (17-9, 7-6), which handed Villanova its first loss of the season on Dec. 30. The Bulldogs had won three straight vs. Villanova, and looked they might continue the streak when they led by as many as 13 in the first half behind Martin’s hot hand.
The Butler senior forward shot 8 for 12 from 3-point range, hitting two straight 3s to spark an early 11-0 run and two more in a row that gave the Bulldogs a 36-26 advantage with 4:28 left in the first half.
But Villanova closed the half on a 9-2 run, capped by a 3-pointer from freshman Collin Gillespie right before the buzzer, and took its first lead two minutes into the second half when DiVincenzo followed a game-tying 3-pointer with a pair of free throws.
DiVincenzo scored 20 of the team’s 51 second-half — including a big basket with just under two minutes to go after Butler sliced the deficit to four — to help Villanova make up for the absences of injured starters Eric Paschall (concussion) and Phil Booth (fractured hand).
Butler: Even though they’ve lost six games in the Big East, the Bulldogs are showing they can hang with anyone in the league. Four days before Saturday’s near-upset, they took No. 5 Xavier to overtime before dropping a 98-93 decision.
Villanova: The Wildcats, who have sat atop the rankings for eight of the last nine weeks, will almost certainly fall off their No. 1 perch when the new AP poll is released Monday. And even after Saturday’s win, their streak of four straight Big East regular-season titles remains in jeopardy with Xavier challenging for the crown.
Butler: The Bulldogs open a three-game homestand, starting with Georgetown on Tuesday.
Villanova: The Wildcats have a tough week coming up, hitting the road to face Providence on Wednesday before a showdown with Xavier next Saturday.