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Butler Upsets Villanova, 55–52

Ryan Sarbello
Junior forward Christina Dalce tied her career-high seven blocks against Butler on Saturday, Feb. 17.

After securing a third-place position in the Big East with defeats of Marquette and Georgetown last week, Villanova fell to Butler 55–52 on Saturday, Feb. 17.

While still in third, the upset dropped the Wildcats to a 16–9 record and 9–5 Big East record.

Meanwhile, Butler (12–13 overall, 4–10 Big East) emerged from the game in ninth place in the conference.

The ‘Cats missed junior guard Zanai Jones due to an upper body injury.

“We don’t know [when Jones will return] at this point,” head coach Denise Dillon said. “It was tough not having her out on the floor. She’s been having a really good year for us.”

Junior guard Kaitlyn Orihel filled in Jones’ familiar place in the starting lineup. Orihel contributed five points and three rebounds on the night.

Junior forward Christina Dalce’s standout defensive performance limited Butler’s efforts to exploit a Villanova shooting slump. Dalce recorded 14 rebounds, seven points and a career-high tying seven blocks.

“We certainly depend on [Dalce] a lot,” Dillon said. “She’s there each and every time. As she continues to grow, work and get better in the paint, good things will happen for us.”

The teams stayed close in the first quarter.

Orihel sunk a three-pointer in the opening minute. The Bulldogs responded with a 7–0 run, including a pair of free-throws, for their first lead of the game.

Villanova eventually took back the scoreboard and finished the first ten minutes ahead by a razor margin, 15–14.

Shooting struggles impaired the Wildcats for much of the game. In the second quarter, Villanova shot just 3–12 from the field and 0–5 from the long range.

Junior guard Lucy Olsen held up the Villanova offense, leading the team with 12 points in the first half. Olsen finished the night with a game-high 21 points.

When a ten-point burst put Butler ahead 25–17 close to halfway through period two, Dillon called a timeout for Villanova.

Despite the attempt to regroup, the Bulldogs continued to score. The visitors’ lead soon stretched to 11.

By the half, Villanova trailed Butler 31–25.

The Wildcats came back from the locker room with some new energy, closing the deficit to two. Senior guard Bella Runyan made a three-pointer to tie the game 32–32 with just under eight minutes to go in the third quarter.

Despite the positive start to the second half, inconsistent offense continued to be a problem for Villanova. The Wildcats went more than six minutes without scoring and missed nine consecutive shot attempts, giving the Bulldogs time to surge ahead.

A layup from Orihel ended the scoring drought with just a minute left in the third quarter. Olsen followed with a stepback jumper in the paint.

The Wildcats went into the final ten minutes behind 41–36.

Strong defense, especially from Dalce, only permitted Butler to score once in the first four minutes of the quarter.

With three minutes left on the clock, the ‘Cats were still behind, 49–40. Dillon called a timeout as the team sought to turn the game around in the limited remaining time.

Olsen, on a mission to save the game, scored seven points in the last sixty seconds by connecting on two layups and a three-pointer. However, late fouls on both Olsen and Orihel allowed the Bulldogs to add just enough points from free-throws to keep the ‘Cats away.

The next Villanova matchup will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 21 against Providence.

The Friars (11–15 overall, 5–8 Big East) currently stand eighth in the conference. In their last meeting, the Wildcats fell 82–76 in overtime. 

Tip-off at the Finn is set for 7 p.m.

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Katie Lewis
Katie Lewis, Co-Sports Editor
Katie Lewis is a sophomore from Miami, FL in her first year as Co-Sports Editor in 2024. From covering games to writing features and profiles, she loves to find the story behind Villanova sports. Pursuing her enthusiasm for writing and journalism in her studies at Villanova, Katie is double-majoring in English and Communication with concentrations in Journalism and Writing & Rhetoric. When Katie isn’t at Holy Grounds working on her next article, she enjoys playing tennis with Villanova’s club team.
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