Villanova cruises in Phil Booth's return

USA Today Images

Villanova cruises in Phil Booth's return


Phil Booth returned to Villanova's lineup, and it looked as if he never left.

Booth had 14 points in his comeback from a broken right hand that sidelined him for seven games, and Mikal Bridges scored 27 points to lead No. 3 Villanova to a 93-62 victory over DePaul on Wednesday night.

Eric Paschall had 16 points, and Jalen Brunson added 11 points and seven assists to help the Wildcats (25-3, 12-3 Big East) beat DePaul for the 16th straight time.

Booth played 16 minutes, going 4 for 6 from the field and 2 for 4 from. He was injured Jan. 23 against Providence, had his cast removed Friday and practiced Tuesday.

Wildcats coach Jay Wright was pleasantly surprised at Booth's speedy recovery -- and his play.

"It's great to have him back," Wright said about Booth, who entered averaging 11.6 points. "It's a tribute to him. It looked like he never had anything wrong at practice. He looked good tonight, completely fine. It just amazes me."

Booth entered 2:53 into the contest and made his presence felt, scoring eight points in eight minutes to help the Wildcats to their 16-point halftime lead.

"It felt good to be back out there," Booth said. "A little rust but I wasn't worried about offense. My hand felt great."

Max Strus scored 21 points for the Blue Demons (10-17, 3-12).

The Wildcats had a comfortable 46-30 lead at the break. They surged to a 27-point advantage with 17:47 left in the contest by scoring 13 of the first 15 second-half points over 2:13. Bridges capped the run with a 3-pointer that made it 59-32 and practically erased any chances of a DePaul comeback.

"Our hands were down, we were late to a couple of rotations," Blue Demons coach Dave Leitao said of the Villanova spurt.

Leitao said the Wildcats have so many offensive options, and adding Booth makes it even harder to defend them.

"They are back to being whole," he said.

The game was tied at 16 after a Strus 3-pointer with 11:09 left in the half, but the Wildcats slowly and methodically pulled away.

Bridges had 15 points and Paschall added nine in the opening 20 minutes. Villanova was 10 for 14 from the free-throw line while the Blue Demons didn't attempt a foul shot. For the game, the Wildcats finished 15 for 21 from the line while DePaul was 0 for 1.

Big picture
DePaul: The Blue Demons need a victory in one of their three remaining games to reach four conference wins, which would be their most since joining the Big East.

Villanova: The four-time defending Big East champion Wildcats also have three regular-season games remaining. They are tied for first place with Xavier but own the tiebreaker with the Musketeers after beating them twice, including Saturday's 95-79 win at No. 4 Xavier.

Wright stuff
Wright recorded his 411th win at Villanova to close within two victories of tying Alexander Severance for first place in all-time coaching victories. In his 17th season at Villanova, Wright improved to 17-2 against DePaul.

Series dominance
The Wildcats have won 26 of the 34 matchups, with DePaul's last win coming Jan. 3, 2008. Villanova won at DePaul 103-85 on Dec. 27 in the other contest of this season's two-game series.

Strus for 3
Strus made three 3-pointers, finishing 3 for 9, to up his single-season total to 74 and pass Quentin Richardson for second-most in a season. Drake Diener, with 85 in the 2004-05 season, tops the list.

Up next
DePaul: Host Marquette on Saturday.

Villanova: At Creighton on Saturday.

No big threat for 'Nova in Big East opener

AP Images

No big threat for 'Nova in Big East opener


CHICAGO -- In his 17 seasons at Villanova, Jay Wright can't recall coaching a more efficient offense. The way the Wildcats are clicking, it's not hard to see why he feels that way.

Mikal Bridges scored 20 points, Phil Booth added 17 points and six assists, and No. 1 Villanova made it look easy, beating DePaul 103-85 on Wednesday night in the Big East opener for both teams.

The Wildcats (13-0, 1-0) closed in on last year's program-record 14-0 start and gave Wright his 399th victory since becoming Villanova's coach in 2001.

Bridges and Booth each made four 3-pointers, and the Wildcats nailed 15 of 31 from long range.

Chicago-area product Jalen Brunson had 16 points and five assists. Eric Paschall scored 16, and Villanova hit the 100-point mark for the third time this season.

"I think it's really high basketball talent," Wright said. "We've got some really talented guys but they have really high basketball IQ. You might have three guys that talented but only one has basketball IQ. These (players) are all talented and a high basketball IQ. Always look to make the right play, not just scoring points."

He said past teams had more depth and were stingier on defense, something he would like to improve.

"We still have a journey," Wright said.

But these Wildcats also have something else going for them. They're comfortable at the top.

"I remember the first time we were the No. 1 team in the country and it was just a different feeling for the school, for the community," Booth said. "It was something we never really experienced before. Now we kind of focus on ourselves now. It's about us trying to get better and stay locked in."

Max Strus had 20 points, nine rebounds and six assists for DePaul (7-6, 0-1). Marin Maric added 17 points and 10 rebounds, but the Blue Demons dropped their 13th straight against ranked opponents. They fell to 3-21 against No. 1 teams.

"It's phenomenal the way they make shots and a lot of it is they move the ball so well, and all five guys -- they don't have a guy that you don't have to guard at the 3-point line," coach Dave Leitao said. "And when you have that and fill a space and you play unselfishly, you're going to get open shots. They do it to a high level and as a result they make a lot of shots."

Pulling away
The Wildcats beat DePaul for the 15th straight time and improved to 25-8 in the all-time series. They shot 18 of 34 and nailed 8 of 18 3-point attempts on the way to a 48-33 halftime lead.

Any remaining suspense got wiped out by an 11-0 run early in the second half that made it 61-36. Booth hit a 3 and a layup during that spurt, and Jermaine Samuels finished it with two free throws. Bridges' 3 with just over 15 minutes left made it 69-39.

About the only thing Blue Demons fans had to cheer was when Bears great Otis Wilson was introduced in the closing minutes.

Painful moment
There was a scary moment late in the first half when DePaul's Peter Ryckbosch collided with Booth going for a defensive rebound and banged his head on the court. He stayed down for a couple minutes before walking to the locker room.

Big picture
Villanova: Though they got outrebounded 50-32, it's not hard to see why the Wildcats are No. 1 for the third week in a row.

DePaul: The Blue Demons couldn't get their shots to fall and had trouble hanging onto the ball. They were 29 of 71 overall -- 6 of 23 on 3's -- and tied a season high with 17 turnovers.

"Deep down it means a lot to come back here. ... I enjoy being back here. I love to be here. A lot of great memories. It feels good to come home." -- Brunson on playing in Chicago.

Up next
Villanova: The Wildcats visit Butler on Saturday. The Bulldogs swept both games last season and handed Villanova its first loss after a 14-0 start.

DePaul: The schedule doesn't get easier, with the Blue Demons visiting No. 6 Xavier on Saturday.

Billy Garrett shares Sixers' desire to win after 4 straight losing seasons at DePaul

Billy Garrett shares Sixers' desire to win after 4 straight losing seasons at DePaul

CAMDEN, N.J. — Billy Garrett had a rough time at DePaul.
The Blue Demons went 24-41 in the 6-foot-6 guard's first two years on campus. After a coaching change, things didn't get much better. DePaul won just 18 games combined during Garrett's junior and senior seasons.
"It's tough to deal with, man," Garrett said after a pre-draft workout with the Sixers on Monday. "Especially if you've never been in that situation ... I won everything in high school — so you're like, 'Man, I don't really know how to deal with this.'"
What Garrett has endured personally is much worse than any of the losses he accrued on the court.
Garrett suffers from sickle cell anemia. Sickle cell anemia or sickle cell disease (SCD) is a red blood cell disorder. The red blood cells become hard and sticky and form a C-shape like a sickle. This can cause the red blood cells to get stuck and stop blood flow, which can cause severe joint pain or infection. The disease is found primarily in African-Americans. About 1 in 13 African-American babies is born with sickle cell trait, according to a CDC study
An episode can be brought on by fatigue, stress, extreme hot or cold, or high altitude. As a college athlete, Garrett had to use extreme caution.
"You've got to take care for your body," Garrett said. "You've got to pay special attention to your body. In my training the last two months, I've been working really, really hard to get myself into the type of shape you need to be in to be able to work out and impress. I think I've been able to do that.
"Diet's been really important. Rest. Playing in college with sickle cell, I figured out what works for me and what doesn't. Just listen to my body, eat right, stay hydrated and hope everything works out for me."
During the pre-draft process, Garrett has been strict with his diet. He's cut out added sugars, eating only food with natural sugars. He's lost about 10 pounds since college, as well. He's staying on top of his hydration, vital for someone with sickle cell, by drinking coconut water and getting plenty of electrolytes.
Feeling healthy, Garrett's focus on Monday was on trying to impress the Sixers. The Chicago native has tools that could intrigue the team. He averaged 14.9 points a game while shooting 36 percent from three. He also shot a very impressive 88 percent from the free throw line.
Garrett will likely go undrafted, but that doesn't mean he didn't get the Sixers' attention.
"I think I'd fit pretty well with this team," Garrett said. "It's a franchise on the uptick. Four tough years and they're trying to rebuild. Talking to coach (Brett) Brown, we talked about culture. Think I'd be a great addition to the culture. Just bringing in the right work ethic, the right attitude. I think this would be a great place for me."
Unfortunately, Garrett and the Sixers do have losing in common over the last four years. It's something Garrett is prepared to handle in the NBA but not a trend he'd like to continue.
"I think [losing in college] kind of prepared me for that," Garrett said. "But with that being said, I don't want to come in here and be a part of a losing franchise. Nobody does."