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Villanova v Butler

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HARTFORD, Conn. — It’s a long history between the UConn Huskies and the Butler Bulldogs despite the first time these teams ever played each other was 13 years ago for the national championship.

The stakes were much less Tuesday evening, but still just as important for the Bulldogs who had won four straight games coming into Hartford. The Huskies showed once again why they are the number-one team in the nation, flanking the Bulldogs in every attempt they made to get ahead.

The game also marked the return of Posh Alexander to the starting line-up for Butler after he sat out their astounding victory over #13 Creighton on Friday.

The Huskies grabbed the lead early hammering off a 6-0 run in the game’s opening stanza. The Bulldogs appeared undeterred as they clapped right back to keep pace.

The Dawgs had no answer for the Huskies’ prowess in the paint as UConn scored 10 of their first 12 points from directly under the basket. The surprising thing at the half was that even though Butler was being outscored 24-14 in the paint, it was the Bulldogs who were out-rebounding the Huskies 18-14.

The game would prove to be a game of spurts in the wrong sense if you’re Butler. Throughout the Dawgs had a tough time finding any considerable rhythm scoring. The longest run of the night by Butler was an 11-0 run between the first and second halves that was engineered entirely by DJ Davis, who ended the night as the team’s leading scorer with 21 points.

But each time Butler started finding that aforementioned rhythm they ran into arguably one of the nation’s best defenders in Donavon Clingan of UConn. He had three of the Huskies’ seven blocked shots on the night. No matter how many shots Davis or Jahmyl Telfort could muster, the Huskies had an answer.

Telfort ended with 17 points on the night.

The blocked shots, turnovers (10), and inconsistent shooting (37%) stifled Butler’s every attempt to try and get back even. UConn was also plus-4 on rebounds in the second half after it had been the other way around in the first half.

Clingan finished the evening with 18 points and a career-high 14 rebounds for the Huskies. Cam Spencer also knocked down some key three-point shots for UConn in the second half to finish with 20 points.

By the end of the contest, Butler was out of gas after hanging with their toughest opponent of the year. The scoreboard showed a 71-62 victory for UConn at the final horn. Butler is now 0-9 versus the Huskies.

Though discouraging, the loss does not do much to hurt the Bulldogs in the grand scheme of things. Out of contention to win the Big East regular season, the focus now is on getting in the best possible spot for their post-season.

Butler is now 6-6 in Big East play and they are flirting right with the line that separates the top five teams from the bottom five. The former will have first-round byes in the Big East Tournament. The loss also doesn’t hurt Butler much in the eyes of those who prognosticate the NCAA Tournament bracket. The Bulldogs still qualify as an At-Large contender in the eyes of most.

For now, Butler will return to Hinkle Fieldhouse after back-to-back road games as they host Providence on Saturday (2/10). The Friars barely beat Butler when the Bulldogs visited them out east in late December.

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