Sophomore guard Simas Lukosius put up a career-high 28 points to help lead Butler to a win over Villanova. Photo by Claire Runkel.
SARAH HOHMAN | SPORTS CO-EDITOR | email@example.com
In a loud atmosphere in Hinkle Fieldhouse, Butler defeated the Villanova Wildcats for the first time since 2021. With a final score of 79-71, the Dawgs were led by sophomore guard Simas Lukosius who put up 28 points — his new career-high. Butler picked up the team’s third conference win to bump their Big East record up to 3-5. Without graduate center Manny Bates, senior forward/center Jalen Thomas and senior guard/forward Ali Ali stepped up in the starting lineup. Thomas went 5-6 from the field and collected a team-high five rebounds.
The Dawgs created breathing room in the first half by going on a 10-0 run to make it a 34-22 Butler lead with 3:47 left in the half. Due to a slow second-half start, it was a back-and-forth game until the Bulldogs took control late in the second half. Butler is now 11-0 when leading at the half.
After a tough Big East stretch of offense, the Dawgs’ shot 57% from the field and topped 50% in both halves against the Wildcats. Lukosius led the team, but junior guard Chuck Harris, graduate guard Eric Hunter Jr. and Thomas all were in double-figures as well.
The Bulldogs shot 57.1% from beyond the three-point line in the second half to push them past their slow start to the half. Lukosius went 5-8 from three to post a season-high in three-pointers made.
Without Bates, the rest of the lineup had to step up in order to succeed against the Wildcats. Hunter Jr. contributed to the team both offensively and defensively. He added seven assists along with a steal and shot 5-6 from the free-throw line.
Butler forced the Wildcats to turn the ball over 15 times — 11 of which were steals. This helped slow down forward Eric Dixon and guard Caleb Daniels who put up 22 and 21 points respectively.
Coach Thad Matta has mentioned that he has wanted guys to step up throughout the season. Tonight, Matta was proud of the effort his team made especially without Bates.
“I think these guys were tested,” Matta said. “We didn’t flinch…I mean that to me is Butler basketball. We will get Manny back when we can and we got better tonight and that’s what you want to do. Because we didn’t play particularly well last weekend and out east and as I said, very proud of the way these guys came back and competed tonight.”
Butler will face off against Creighton on Jan. 17 at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Bluejays will be coming off tough games against three nationally ranked Big East teams in Xavier, UConn and Providence.
The victory over Villanova may hopefully spark a push for the second half of Big East play and maybe still impress the NCAA selection committee in time.