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NCAA basketball notebook: Villanova tops Notre Dame in battle of ranked teams on Saturday

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Ron Cortes/Philadelphia Inquirer/MCT

Ron Cortes/Philadelphia Inquirer/MCT

In a battle of unbeaten ranked teams, No. 1 Villanova topped No. 23 Notre Dame 74-66 in a tightly-contested matchup.

Both teams entered the game at 9-0, but only one team could leave with an untarnished record. The Fighting Irish (9-1) got off to a hot start in front of its home crowd and a barrage of early offense forced Wildcats (10-0) coach Jay Wright to take an early timeout two minutes into the game after the Irish had scored eight points compared to the Wildcats two.

From that point on, Villanova showed its true heart: Josh Hart. The senior guard seemingly put the team on his back as his play allowed the Wildcats to stay within striking distance for the majority of the contest.

Villanova would not take its first lead of the game until there was nine minutes remaining in the game. Hart found sophomore guard Jaylen Brunson for a layup to put the Wildcats up 57-56 over the Fighting Irish.

From that point on it really was the Josh Hart show as he was scoring, assisting, rebounding and leading his team in all facets.

Hart finished with a career-high 37 points, (10-for-14 FG’s, 3-for-4 3-pointers, 14-for-14 free throws) 11 rebounds, four assists and two steals. Villanova will keep its No. 1 rank in all likelihood as they move on to face Temple.

For Notre Dame, senior guard Steve Vasturia and junior guard Matt Farrell led the way with 18 points each. With a strong showing against the top ranked team, Notre Dame may keep its spot among the top 25 teams in the nation.

Bulldogs beat Bearcats

It was a rude wake up call for Butler’s Kelan Martin as the junior forward was pulled from the starting lineup before Saturday’s big game against No. 22 Cincinnati (7-2) as the No. 16 Bulldogs (9-1) looked for answers to the team’s streak of lackadaisical starts.

The move served Butler right as Martin led the Bulldogs to a 75-65 victory.

The first half of the contest was a stalemate, with both teams going back and forth scoring baskets without much resistance. Entering halftime both teams were tied at 35.

With 15 minutes remaining in the game, Martin would come off the bench and hit a big 3-pointer to put his team up 41-39 and spur a 14-4 run that gave Butler a 51-43 lead with about 12 minutes left in the game.

Butler was not done there as they went on another run, this one a 12-5 burst that sealed the win. Martin finished as the Bulldog’s leading scorer with 20 points off the bench.

With its win, Butler improves to 9-1 as the Bearcats of Cincinnati drop to 7-2. Butler also extends its home-court winning streak over non-conference foes to 34 games. In terms of poll rankings, don’t expect much movement for either team this week.

Zak Borrelli can be reached at [email protected].

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