Dixon Leads ‘Cats to 82-42 Demolition of Butler


Courtesy of Maggie Mengel/Villanovan Photography

Sophomore forward Eric Dixon scored 14 points and described himself as “confident” after the win.

Colin Beazley, Co-Editor in Chief

After scoring 14 points on 6-7 shooting and terrorizing Butler in the post, redshirt sophomore forward Eric Dixon hesitated when asked if he was feeling confident.

Um, I mean, yeah. I’m confident, you know, I’m confident,” the soft-spoken Dixon said. 

Dixon was then asked if he had recognized that Butler’s defense was trying to take away Villanova’s typical scorers Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore, and instead of taking credit Dixon admitted ignorance.

“I can’t say I really did,” Dixon said. “I kinda just thought about the right decision to make, honestly.”

Regardless of reasoning, Dixon was the key to Villanova’s 82-42 trouncing of Butler. In Villanova’s first game back at the Wells Fargo Center since Feb. 29, 2020, the Wildcats came out firing, shooting 71.4% in the first half to take a 16-point lead into the break, before putting the Bulldogs away with a 12-0 run to start the second half. Dixon had six of the Wildcats’ first 11 points, adding three assists in the first half to take control of a game the Wildcats were never threatened in.

“It’s simple, basic, but not sexy, just getting better every day,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said of Dixon’s development. “And he’s been doing it since day one that he’s been here. When he was a freshman, and even with [a] redshirt on, we said he’s going to be good.”

Butler head coach LaVall Jordan said much of the same about Dixon.

“He’s really improved,” Jordan said. “They went in early to him, and if you let him get to his left hand, he’s really good, if you let him catch it deep, he’s very good.”

Despite the delayed response from Dixon postgame, graduate guard Collin Gillespie was quick to endorse the big man. 

“I’m really confident in him as well when he gets in the post,” Gillespie said. “Just from the last two years, you see how much work he’s put in… When you’re able to throw it inside and he could score and make really good decisions, make the right passes and make the right plays, it opens everything up for everybody else.”

Villanova raced out to an 11-2 lead behind six from Dixon and five from Moore, quickly extending the lead to 15 points before the teams had even played ten minutes. At halftime, the Wildcats led 39-23, but the scoreline was closer than the game felt.

“That’s not what we were expecting from ourselves,” Jordan said. “We expected them to come out and play with a certain level of energy and play well, obviously they’ve been playing pretty well here lately. Didn’t expect that from ourselves, we just didn’t compete well-enough from the jump.”

It took Butler five and a half minutes to score in the second half, and by that time, the game was well out of reach. The Wildcats led the Bulldogs by 30 with 12 minutes left and extended the lead to 40 by the final whistle.

Four of the five Villanova starters finished the game with double digit scoring. Gillespie led all scorers with 17, Moore added 15 and graduate forward Jermaine Samuels finished with 14 of his own. The Wildcats shot 59.6% from the field on the day, and an even better 63.2% from beyond the arc.

For the final seven minutes, Wright called upon his depth, finishing the game with a lineup of upperclassmen guards Chris Arcidiacono and Bryan Antoine and freshmen Trey Patterson, Nnanna Njoku and Jordan Longino. Patterson and Njoku set season highs in points in limited action, as Patterson scored five and Njoku added four.

“I was glad we’re starting to be able to extend our bench a little bit,” Wright said. “That’s gonna be helpful to us. Keep Collin especially fresh, every minute we get Eric [out] is good for him. We’ve been playing Collin a lot of minutes so that was good for us.”

The Wildcats were clearly motivated by their return to the Wells Fargo Center, and their shooting was as hot as the flames accompanying the players’ introductions.

“This is one of the unique college basketball atmospheres in the country,” Wright said. “This is an NBA arena but a college crowd, you’ve got all the students out there. To see them tailgating in seven degree weather, which blows my mind every year… every time I see it, I’m like ‘I can’t believe they still do that.’ It’s a fun place to play and a great experience for our guys.”

With the win, the Wildcats improved to 13-4, 6-1 in the Big East, and have now won six in a row. Heading into a Wednesday matchup with similarly hot Marquette, who have won four Big East games in a row with wins over two ranked opponents, the Wildcats will need another big game from Dixon to extend their streak.

“He’s done everything fast,” Wright said. “I really still believe this isn’t close to what he’s going to be in the end.”