Phil Booth

In his final game at Wells Fargo Center, Phil Booth drops 28 to lead Villanova past Butler

AP Images

In his final game at Wells Fargo Center, Phil Booth drops 28 to lead Villanova past Butler


Phil Booth walked off the court for the final time in a home game with reminders everywhere how he helped turn the program into a national power. The scoreboard was lit with the point totals of another Villanova rout, a 20-point cushion built in large part by Booth's 3-point shooting. And in the rafters, two national championships that he helped the Wildcats win -- what fan can forget the 3 at the halftime horn in 2016 against North Carolina? -- and former teammates stopped by to salute the senior guard.

Booth has been the steady scorer in the most uneven of seasons for the Wildcats. If Booth wants to leave with a third Final Four on his resume, he'll need another Wildcat or two to step up and help him and Eric Paschall carry the scoring load.

"We're still learning how to play well together," Booth said.

The Wildcats are running out of time to figure it all out. But against Butler, Booth and Paschall were enough.

Booth scored 28 points and Paschall had 12 to lead Villanova to a 75-54 win over Butler in the home finale on Saturday.

The Wildcats (22-8, 13-4 Big East) could still win at least a share of the conference crown in a season where they have as many losses as the last two years combined. Villanova tumbled out of the AP Top 25 following a three-game losing streak, yet it is assured of earning no lower than a No. 2 seed in the Big East Tournament in two weeks in Madison Square Garden. Coach Jay Wright's program has won the last two Big East tourneys and three of four -- oh, and the 2016 and 2018 national championships.

`We're just a work in progress," Wright said. "We shouldn't be at this point, but we are. Part of that's on us as a coaching staff, but I think we're going in a good direction. I like how we're playing right now."

The title banners (and one for 1985) were raised in the Wells Fargo Center, but not even the national champs could take center stage in Philly on Saturday.

Fans scrolled their phones and were still buzzing over the Phillies' record signing of free-agent Bryce Harper. Harper had just pulled on his pinstripe jersey and Phillies cap for the first time at a press conference in Clearwater, Florida when Villanova tipped off. The Wildcats weren't the 1A story in the city -- they weren't even headline news in their own arena. Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors were in town and set to play the 76ers hours after the final horn. With the fast turnaround time, the game was played on the Sixers' court instead of the one adorned with Villanova logos.

It took some time for Villanova to feel at home. The Wildcats missed six of their first seven shots and struggling Butler led early by nine.

Booth took control and buried a 3-pointer and converted a three-point play to give the Wildcats a 27-23 lead and they took off the rest of the way. Booth pushed the lead to 15 with a 3 early in the second half, and Paschall's thunderous baseline dunk got a rise out of fans on hand for the appetizer before the NBA's game of the night.

Villanova's search for a consistent third scorer goes on: Jermaine Samuels followed his 10 of 19 (5 3s) and 29-point outing in a win over No. 10 Marquette with just seven points against Butler. Saddiq Bey scored 11 points in a modest effort for the Wildcats.

"The tinkering has to end," Wright said.

The Bulldogs (15-14, 6-10) needed a win to remain in the NCAA Tournament picture and will pretty much need to win it all in two weeks in New York to have a shot at March Madness. Paul Jorgensen led Butler with 11 points. Butler had closed within eight late in the second half but couldn't sustain the run and Booth's fourth 3-pointer made it a 15-point game.

"We've had moments where we've looked like the team we want to look like, and for 20 minutes, I thought we were that," Butler coach LaVall Jordan said. "In the second half, that was not the case. It's just a little bit of soul searching to decide who we're going to be from this point out."

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Butler: Shot just 5 of 26 from beyond the 3-point arc.

Villanova: F Cole Swider was in uniform for the first time since he broke his right hand on Jan. 17 and could add some depth if he can return for the tournament.

Up next

Butler host Xavier on Wednesday.

Villanova finishes the regular season Saturday at Seton Hall.

Phil Booth drains 7 3-pointers as No. 18 Villanova blows out Seton Hall

USA Today Images

Phil Booth drains 7 3-pointers as No. 18 Villanova blows out Seton Hall


Phil Booth hit seven 3-pointers and scored 25 points, helping No. 18 Villanova beat Seton Hall 80-52 on Sunday for its eighth consecutive victory.

The Wildcats (16-4, 7-0 Big East) made 17 3s and are rolling toward another conference crown under coach Jay Wright. The national champions still have some kinks to work out to become a deep threat in March — namely, finding a third scorer — but again should be a low single-digit seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The Pirates (12-8, 3-5) remain 0-for-Nova on the road since 1994. The Wildcats have won 17 straight games on their home court against Seton Hall (15-0 Pavilion; 2-0 Wells Fargo Center) and were never threatened in this one.

The Wildcats held Seton Hall to just nine baskets through the first 26 minutes and Collin Gillespie hit Villanova's ninth 3-pointer to push the lead to 45-26.

Eric Paschall and Booth are a two-person show for the Wildcats and shot the team out of their early season funk (that included four losses by Dec. 16). Against the Pirates, Paschall and Booth combined for six 3s and 26 points in the first half. The duo outscored Seton Hall 26-20 and the Wildcats led by 10 at the break. Booth missed a 3, the offensive rebound got kicked out to him and he nailed a 3 from the top of the arc to make it 30-20.

Paschall finished with 17 points, going over 1,000 for his career.

Seton Hall had 14 turnovers in the first half and missed 8 of 10 3-pointers, the latest inept performance against a Villanova program the Pirates have not defeated since 2016.

Myles Cale led Seton Hall with 14 points and the Pirates shot 35 percent from the floor.

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Seton Hall: The Pirates have lost five of six games and continue to struggle on defense after allowing 97 points last time out to DePaul. It's hard to believe this is the same team that beat Kentucky and Maryland in December.

Villanova: The Wildcats also need to tighten up their free-throw shooting. They made just 7 of 13 attempts.

Up next

Seton Hall hosts Providence on Wednesday.

Villanova plays Wednesday night at DePaul.

Phil Booth ignites second-half surge as Villanova beats Creighton

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Phil Booth ignites second-half surge as Villanova beats Creighton

OMAHA, Neb. — Villanova called on Phil Booth again. As usual, he delivered.

Booth scored 19 of his 28 points after halftime to ignite the Wildcats' surge as they came from behind to beat Creighton 90-78 on Sunday.

"He's got an incredible humility about him where when you need him, he's there," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "If you don't need him, he's doing all the little things and he's not complaining. It's what makes him a great leader and great player."

Booth made all four of his 3-pointers in the second half and scored eight straight points early in a 26-6 spurt that turned Villanova's 47-38 deficit into a 64-53 lead with 9 minutes left. The Bluejays had two scoring droughts of more than 4 minutes as Villanova (13-4, 4-0 Big East) pulled away.

The defending champion Wildcats came back from sizeable deficits for the third time in four games. They trailed by 13 before beating No. 24 St. John's on Tuesday and by 14 in a win over DePaul on Jan. 2. Booth hit the go-ahead 3-pointer late and scored 23 points against St. John's.

The fifth-year senior said his work is a reflection of the team.

"It's how resilient we are, how mentally tough we are from being down a lot throughout the season," Booth said. "It's learning how to stay calm and doing what we do to fight back and stay aggressive no matter what happens."

For the Bluejays (10-7, 1-3), the loss came after they twice led by nine and followed their crushing overtime home loss to No. 21 Marquette on Wednesday. In that game, they gave up a Big East-record 53 points to Markus Howard and blew a three-point lead with less than a second left in regulation.

"To beat Villanova, it takes tremendous discipline on both ends of the floor," Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. "I've said on numerous occasions, they just don't beat themselves and they have two of the better players in the league in Booth and Paschall, and they certainly showed that today why they are in that position."

Eric Paschall, also a fifth-year senior, had 21 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Collin Gillespie made four 3s while scoring 14.

Ty-Shawn Alexander made five 3-pointers and scored 17 of his 22 points in the first half as Creighton got out to a nine-point lead. Villanova clamped down on Alexander in the second half, limiting him to two field goals.

The Bluejays were up nine again early in the second, at 47-38, before Villanova stormed back.

Booth led the Wildcats to their first lead since the opening four minutes after Paschall converted a nice pass in the lane from Gillespie. Booth made three free throws after getting fouled shooting a 3-pointer and then a jumper and 3-pointer to put Villanova up 48-47 with 16:36 left.

The Bluejays got it back to 51-all, but Booth made two straight 3s to open another 13-0 spurt that broke it open again.

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Villanova: The Wildcats have won five straight and are the only unbeaten team in Big East play. They played their best half of the season on defense in the second half, limiting up-tempo Creighton to 40-percent shooting and 36 points.

Creighton: The Bluejays, who played without injured starter Damien Jefferson (calf, ankle) have lost three straight Big East games and now have to go on the road for back-to-back games.

"We had a really short bench today," McDermott said, "and there were some matchups that were just awful for us given the guys we have available to us. But I thought they fought and competed. Today we got beat by a better team."

Help on the way
Wright is excited about the development of some of his younger players like Jermaine Samuels (13 points, six rebounds, two blocks), Saddiq Bey (seven points, six rebounds) and Jahvon Quinerly (seven points, three rebounds).

"We could be sitting here 7-10 and waiting for those guys, but Phil and E have carried us," Wright said. "Now Jermaine is starting to prove (himself), Quinerly gave us great minutes, Saddiq is starting to get better. It's what we need if we're going to be a good team. Phil and E can't carry us the whole season. They'll get worn down. But the younger guys are starting to come and that's what we're going to have to have to get road wins and beat teams like Creighton."

Up next 
Villanova hosts Xavier on Friday.

Creighton visits St. John's on Wednesday.