Dan Gelston

Good news for Villanova: Phil Booth is finally healthy

ap-villanova-phil-booth.jpg
AP Images

Good news for Villanova: Phil Booth is finally healthy

VILLANOVA, Pa. — Phil Booth can live with hitting only Villanova's second-biggest buzzer beater in a national championship game.

Let's throw it back to April 2016 in Houston.

"Five seconds to go in the half. Booth. He has time. Looks up, puts it up. And got it!" TBS announcer Jim Nantz said.

"Big time dagger. Booth!" analyst Bill Raftery said.

Just like that, Booth's jumper at the horn cut North Carolina's lead to 5 at halftime.

Nantz and Raftery are about as good as it gets in the broadcast booth, but let one of the stars of the game call this one.

"That was more of a scramble around. Clock went down. Josh (Hart) made a great block and I was just trying to find a spot. I was seeing guys coming down the court trying to catch guys in transition," Booth said as he watched a highlight reel on YouTube. "I saw the clock running, so I had to make a play; either pass or shoot it, so I found a spot at the foul line."

Kris Jenkins won the NCAA title with a 3 at the buzzer and stuffed trophy cases at Villanova's state-of-the art complex.

But ask your friends at a local Nova hangout such as Kelly's Taproom who was the leading scorer in that game, and you might win a round stumping them on Booth. Booth, now a 6-foot-3, 190-pound junior guard, averaged only 7 points that season and was scoreless in 12 minutes against Kansas in the regional final. Against the Tar Heels, Booth scored a career-high 20 on 6 of 7 shooting (two 3s) and 6 of 6 free throws.

"I didn't really know or pay attention to how many points I had until I got to my phone and saw all the texts," he said. "I had no idea. I just knew we won the game."

Booth also knew he couldn't play much more on a painful left knee that even ached in warmups against the Tar Heels. Booth has no idea how the knee was injured; he just knows it wasn't the result of a direct hit and it started early in his sophomore year. He had surgery to repair a meniscus tear about a month after the national championship game and came back ready to help the Wildcats try and defend the title.

Booth felt an unrelated "flare up" on his left kneecap early last season and his year was cut to only three games. Booth against underwent surgery at the end of the season.

He missed Villanova repeat as Big East champions and was a helpless spectator when its season ended with a loss to Wisconsin in just the second game of the NCAA Tournament.

Booth is the only player wearing a suit, his hat backward and a T-shirt draped over his shoulder, in a Big East tournament championship photo that hangs in the hall of the basketball complex.

He's a future pro if healthy, and considered the risk had he pushed through the pain last season. Booth did practice at the end of the season before he was shut down near the NCAA Tournament.

"It was all about the long-term thing. It could come back. It could not," he said. "I decided to do the thing that was best for long-term playing."

Booth, whose father, Phil Booth Sr., is a Philadelphia native who starred at Northeast High School and Coppin State University, and Jalen Brunson are the only returning players who started last season's opener. Jenkins, Hart (a Lakers first-round draft pick) and Darryl Reynolds all left as part of the winningest senior class (129-17; 63-9 Big East) in program history. Donte DiVincenzo, Mikal Bridges, Omari Spellman and Jermaine Samuels, widely considered one of the top high school recruits in the nation, kept the Wildcats as Big East favorites and a preseason national championship contender.

Booth has finished his rehab, but coach Jay Wright eased him back into workouts at the start of the semester. One day on, one day off. Wright, starting his 17th season at Villanova, said Booth will hit full speed with no restrictions next week.

"I'm as positive as I could possibly be right now," Wright said. "He's unique because I think he approached this with a long-term (view) to his career and his life."

Booth insisted his knees are fine and he's ready to help Villanova think long-term — all the way to the first weekend of April. His last basket against North Carolina put the Wildcats up 69-64 and had analyst Grant Hill raving: "How many times have we seen guys off the bench step in the finals and play big?!"

And that was on one bum knee.

With two good ones, Booth just may shine again in a title game.

Philly native Eddie Alvarez knocked out by Conor McGregor in 2nd round

usa-connor-mcgregor-eddie-alvarez.jpg
USA Today Images

Philly native Eddie Alvarez knocked out by Conor McGregor in 2nd round

NEW YORK -- Conor McGregor knocked out Eddie Alvarez in the second round to win the UFC lightweight title and become the first two-class champion in the promotion's history.

McGregor dominated from the opening bell of the main event of UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night and the sold-out crowd roaring with each blow. McGregor is now the reigning featherweight and lightweight champ.

UFC has not decided if McGregor will be allowed to defend both championships. UFC President Dana White said McGregor could be about the only fighter in the promotion to handle that kind of fight load.

McGregor crouched inside the cage waiting for the bell to ring and attack Alvarez. McGregor was the clear aggressor from the start and dropped Alvarez three times in the first round. Alvarez, out of Philadelphia, bounced up the first two times and took a severe beating on the third. McGregor forced Alvarez to fight with his back to the cage and dominated the rest of the round.

McGregor placed his hands behind his back in the second, taunting and toying Alvarez to hit him. McGregor, UFC's biggest box office star, unloaded a left and ended the fight.

He demanded both belts and slapped them over his shoulder before he sat on top of the cage.

"I've spent a lot of time slaying everybody in the country," McGregor said. "I'd like to take the chance to apologize to absolutely nobody."

UFC was live and legal in New York for the first time since an MMA ban was lifted earlier this year.

"This is the biggest event in the history of MMA," UFC color commentator Joe Rogan told the crowd.

UFC stacked the card with three title fights that were expected to help set a gate record of more than $17 million at MSG. The 1999 boxing match between Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield drew a record $13.5 million.

Tyron Woodley defeated Stephen Thompson via majority draw to retain his welterweight title in a fantastic fight and Joanna Jedrzejczyk successfully defended her UFC women's strawweight championship with a unanimous decision win over Karolina Kowalkiewicz.

But the night belonged to McGregor.

"What's next for me," McGregor asked inside the cage.

The easy answer: Whatever the Irishman wants.

UFC had never run a show in New York City because of a two-decade ban imposed by New York that left only unsanctioned and unsafe MMA fights in the state. State lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed in April to end the ban following years of failed efforts by MMA supporters. The law authorizing the sport took effect in September.

New York couldn't wait one more night.

MSG was packed with nearly 20,000 fans and UFC was on pace to set a gate record for the arena. McGregor, as he had been all week in New York, was the star of the show -- even with A-listers Madonna and Hugh Jackman in the arena. McGregor's fans wore Irish flag capes and his fellow countrymen sang "Ole Ole Ole" in the concourse before the show.

UFC last ran a major show in the state at UFC 7: The Brawl in Buffalo on April 7, 1995. UFC, under Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, exploded into a global phenomenon, become a staple on network television and ran PPV cards that hit 1 million buys during the ban. UFC 205 was expected to reach around 1.5 million PPV buys. UFC sold for approximately $4 billion to a group led by Hollywood entertainment conglomerate WME-IMG in July.

Tickets at face value and on StubHub only seemed to be selling for that much apiece.

The fans got plenty of bang -- and kicks, punches and elbows -- for their bucks.

Yoel Romero caught Chris Weidman with a flying right knee and finished him off in the third round with a spectacular, bloody knockout victory. Weidman sat loopy in the octagon as blood poured down his face and onto his chest. Romero sprinted toward the cage, flipped over the top and ran a lap in celebration.

Romero's win made him the No. 1 contender for Michael Bisping's middleweight title and they wasted no time hyping that potential matchup. Bisping was shown on the big screen and extended his middle fingers at Romero.

"It is an honor to be a part of UFC 205 in Madison Square Garden but now I want my shot at the title," Romero said.

Miesha Tate is out of title shots.

Tate, who played a pivotal role in the women's division rise to prominence in UFC, announced her retirement inside the octagon following a loss to Raquel Pennington. The 30-year-old Tate says the loss played a role in her decision.

"I had a lot more to give but I couldn't pull it out of myself," she said.

Tate defeated Holly Holm in March to win the bantamweight title and then lost the belt in her first title defense to Amanda Nunes in July.

Tate (18-7) had coached Pennington on "The Ultimate Fighter," a reality show used by the UFC to recruit new talent.

The Madison Square Garden crowd gave Tate a loud ovation following her surprise announcement.

Villanova raises 2016 national championship banner at Hoops Mania

Villanova raises 2016 national championship banner at Hoops Mania

VILLANOVA, Pa. — Ryan Arcidiacono strode into the Pavilion with a national championship trophy raised high over his head and a bold decree for the Villanova fans stuffing the gym.

"We're going to go back-to-back," Arch told the roaring students. "I'm putting the pressure on right now."

Pressure?

The Wildcats are addicted to pressure and ready for a repeat — but first it was time to party and celebrate the 2016 national championship.

"Let's get ready to rock this house," coach Jay Wright bellowed to the crowd.

The Wildcats unveiled the national championship banner and received their rings Friday night at a students-only ceremony that saw the team dancing and dunking, and even featured a little jig from 81-year-old former coach Rollie Massimino.

Wright seemed to have a catch in his voice when he presented Massimino with a national championship ring. Massimino, who led the Wildcats to the `85 title, hired Wright as an assistant in 1987 and the two have been tight for 30 years.

The Wildcats even raised a new and modern 1985 championship banner to match the one in the rafters for 2016.

Arcidiacono, cut last week by the San Antonio Spurs, received one of the loudest ovations from the 5,000-plus fans that lined up hours before the doors opened for the campus ceremony. Arcidiacono made the pass to Kris Jenkins for the biggest shot in program history — his buzzer-beating 3-pointer in a 77-74 win over North Carolina in the national championship game.

The Wildcats marched out in two, single-file lines with heads bowed and a hand on a teammates' shoulder. Villanova senior forward Darryl Reynolds told the fans "all of our lives matter," to start the ceremony.

Josh Hart, the Big East preseason player of the year, took the mic and yelled, "whose house it?!"

"Our house!" fans screamed back.

"You all show some love for my brother Kris Jenkins," Hart said.

Jenkins received a massive ovation when he walked out for the celebration. Massimino shuffled his feet for a short dance when he was introduced to the crowd by ESPN announcer Seth Greenberg.

Wright climbed the ladder used to cut the nets in Houston and tossed T-shirts to the crowd.

"It hits you in different phases," Wright said. "It's been over for me. But you kind of relive it again tonight."

Wildcat fans hurled blue and white streamers on the court after the first basket of a scrimmage and Wright called the play-by-play action from the bench. He made the losing blue team that included Hart and starting guard Jalen Brunson get down for 10 push-ups because they lost.

Then Wiz Khalifa got the joint jumping.

The Wildcats always close their Hoops Mania night with one of the biggest stars in hip-hop. Drake, 50 Cent and Nicki Minaj have all performed before at Hoops Mania. The tradition continued with Khalifa as students stormed the court for the best standing-room-only spot to watch him perform.

But the Wildcats went old school for the banner celebration, blasting Kool and the Gang's "Celebration" as the players danced on the court.

"That was a great celebration of last year," Wright said, "and we want you guys to keep partying as long as you want to."