Collin Gillespie

Collin Gillespie's career game carries No. 14 Villanova past Georgetown

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Collin Gillespie's career game carries No. 14 Villanova past Georgetown

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Collin Gillespie hit six 3-pointers and scored a career-high 30 points and Eric Paschall had 24 to keep No. 14 Villanova unbeaten in the Big East with a 77-65 victory over Georgetown on Sunday.

The Wildcats (18-4) have won 10 straight games and are 9-0 in the conference for the first time since 2009-10. The Wildcats got rolling late at their off-campus home, the Wells Fargo Center. The Wildcats are 32-3 in the building since 2012-13 -- and their win percentage boosted by six straight wins over the Hoyas in Philadelphia.

James Akinjo led the Hoyas (14-8, 4-5) with 19 points. The Hoyas had averaged 83.2 points on the season yet scored no field goals over a 6-minute stretch late in the game.

Phil Booth — who missed 10 of his first 12 shots — scored on a driving layup, then buried a 3 to snap a tie and give Villanova a 58-53 lead with 5:41 left. Villanova, which was called for four fouls on one possession late in the game, got a Gillespie bucket to stretch the lead and hold off the Hoyas.

The Wildcats were again a two-scorer show. Booth, who was leading Villanova this season with 18.7 points, mostly sat this one out until crunch time. He missed his first six 3-pointers while Paschall had some surprising help from Gillespie.

After Paschal converted a three-point play to give the Wildcats a 46-43 lead, he had combined with Gillespie to score 39 of their points. Gillespie, a 6-foot-3 sophomore guard, had flashes of scoring bursts this season. He scored a career-high 21 in a loss to Penn and 19 in a loss to Furman. But in a Big East battle, Gillespie was clutch in a win.

He sank two free throws for a three-point lead to cap one of the wilder sequences of the game: Booth was picked clean by Greg Malinowksi and the Hoya guard went for a fast-break layup. But Nova's 6-7 forward Jermaine Samuels hustled back and stuffed Malinowksi on a block that brought the crowd to its feet. The Wildcats snagged the possession and Gillespie converted from the line.

And when the Hoyas again tied the game, Gillespie buried a 3 for the lead.

Big picture

Georgetown: The Hoyas had won two straight games but again had their Big East progress stunted by Villanova. The Wildcats have been a thorn for Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing since the 1980s. The Wildcats upset Ewing and the Hoyas in the 1985 national championship game.

Villanova: The Wildcats are playing for NCAA Tournament seeding and could earn one in the low single digits. Samuels was a key against the Hoyas with 16 rebounds and three blocks.

Brunson's back

Two-time national champion Jalen Brunson, the 2018 AP Player of the Year, returned for a senior day celebration. Brunson played three seasons with the Wildcats and was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks. He received a framed No. 1 jersey and shared a hug before the game with coach Jay Wright. Brunson said he still keeps in touch with many of his teammates. "It was a flashback in about 30 seconds," he said.

Up next

Georgetown plays Wednesday at Providence.

The Wildcats host Creighton on Wednesday.

Villanova beats No. 14 Florida State to win AdvoCare Invitational championship

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Villanova beats No. 14 Florida State to win AdvoCare Invitational championship

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Villanova is making a case to get back into the Top-25.

Collin Gillespie had a game-high 17 points, including two key late free throws, and the Wildcats won the AdvoCare Invitational by beating No. 14 Florida State 66-60.

"He loves the competition," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "I'm just glad he's on our side."

Gillespie made it 64-60 by connecting on a pair of free throws with 11.2 seconds to play in what was a tight second half.

Eric Paschall had 15 points and Phil Booth chipped in 12 for the defending national champions (5-2). Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree had 11 points and eight rebounds.

Villanova went from No. 8 to out of the Top 25 - the first time since December 2013 - in last Monday's poll after losing to Michigan 73-46 in a rematch of last season's championship game and losing 76-68 in overtime to Furman.

Florida State (5-1) got 11 points from both Mfiondu Kabengele and Trent Forrest.

"They did a much better job of playing to their strengths than we did ours," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. "I thought our guys gave good effort. I think that we're a team that has a chance to develop into a pretty good basketball team."

The Seminoles' next game is Wednesday night against No. 24 Purdue.

"You only find out some of those areas that you need to work on when you play against great teams, high-caliber teams like we faced today," Hamilton said.

Villanova's Mikal Bridges, Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman were all taken in the NBA draft after last year's championship run.

"We've grown so much," Wright said. "This whole season we've got to have a growth mindset."

Gillespie had nine point to help Villanova take a 26-25 halftime lead. The Wildcats (eight) and Florida State (nine) combined for 17 turnovers.

Unlikely name provides energy 'Nova needs in rout

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Unlikely name provides energy 'Nova needs in rout

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Even as Villanova remains atop the national rankings and barrels toward its fifth straight Big East regular-season championship, a dark cloud of sorts has been hovering above the Wildcats for the last week.

Can the No. 1 Wildcats keep winning without Phil Booth, who was sidelined last Wednesday with a fractured bone in his right hand? How nervous should Villanova fans be about Booth’s status heading into March as the star senior guard has been ruled out “indefinitely” but could return toward the end of the regular season or the Big East Tournament?

Enter Collin Gillespie, who’s trying to make ‘Nova Nation breathe a little easier.

On Thursday against Creighton — Villanova’s second game with Booth sidelined — the freshman guard had eight points and five assists in 23 minutes to help the Wildcats cruise to a 98-78 shellacking of the Bluejays at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

“He brought the energy,” said junior Mikal Bridges, who led all scorers with 21 points. “I told him during the game, in the first half, we were playing off him. He’s the one who came in here and brought all that energy. He played his tail off today. We’re gonna need him for the rest of the season.”

Gillespie, a high school star at nearby Archbishop Wood, had showed flashes of potential early in his freshman campaign before a hand injury of his own sidelined him in mid-December. After missing eight straight games, he returned a little more than a month later but scored only eight total points over the last four contests before Thursday’s timely performance.

“Against a team like [Creighton], you need more perimeter guys than you need big guys,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “So his play tonight was going to be really important going into the game, and I thought when he came in in the first half, he really sparked us.”

While Gillespie’s final stat line may not jump out at you, Wright mentioned the freshman doing little things like taking a charge, effectively distributing the ball and, yes, bringing a lot of energy.

That’s something Gillespie has prided himself on throughout the season, whether it was earlier in the campaign when he was a deeper reserve or now that he’s the first guy off the bench with former sixth man Donte DiVincenzo having taken Booth’s place in the starting lineup.

“I think it’s the same as when I was the seventh or eighth man; just coming in and bringing energy for the team,” Wright said. “Now that Donte is in the starting lineup, it doesn’t really change. I have to keep bringing energy and doing the little things for the team to be successful.” 

Indeed, Gillespie may very well blossom into a Villanova star down the road. But for now, even with Booth injured, he knows his job is to be a role player and help set up Jalen Brunson, Bridges and DiVincenzo for success.

Against the Bluejays, the trio of starting guards accounted for 57 points and 13 assists with Brunson in particular drawing enormous praise from the opposing side — as he usually does.

“I’m not in the NBA but if I was, I would want that guy on my team,” Creighton head coach Greg McDermott said. “He impacts the game in so many ways. If you need him to score, he’ll score. If you need him to distribute, he distributes. He’s got toughness. He’s got moxie. His leadership skills appear to be off the charts. That offense, with the ball in his hands, is really hard to guard.”

Albeit in more modest terms, McDermott also praised Gillespie and fellow freshman reserve Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, a 6-foot-9 forward from Philly.

“Both of those guys come in and just do your job,” the Creighton coach said. “On Jay’s teams, that is, in my opinion, their trademark. They have a lot of guys who have a role and they really execute that role at a high level.” 

Like Gillespie, Cosby-Roundtree has also seen his role elevated because of Booth’s injury, becoming the seventh man in what’s been a tight seven-man rotation. And he too responded in a big way, registering six points and six rebounds, three of which were on the offensive end of the floor.

“The next guy who sparked us was Dhamir,” Wright said. “He had a big offensive rebound early when it was tight, got us an extra possession. Defensively, his ability to guard on the perimeter is becoming an asset for us. He’s really come on and gets better every game. I’m really proud of him.”

Time will tell, of course, when Booth is able to return as ’Nova prepares to make a run at the Final Four and a national championship. But even when he does, the two freshmen — along with redshirt freshman Omari Spellman, who finished with 14 points against Creighton — will almost certainly continue to be important factors.

And for Gillespie, he couldn’t ask for anything more in his first season of college basketball.

“It’s really special,” the Warminster native said. “Being so close to home, my family gets to see me. Just playing for this program is special. It’s been a lot of fun. And it’s just trying to build every day, get better every day.”