eric paschall

No. 17 Villanova falls to No. 1 Kansas in Final Four rematch

usa_phil_booth_dedric_lawson_kansas_villanova.jpg
USA Today Images

No. 17 Villanova falls to No. 1 Kansas in Final Four rematch

BOX SCORE 

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Lagerald Vick had never watched last season's Final Four loss to Villanova before this week, when top-ranked Kansas had to endure every minute of it while prepping for Saturday's game against the Wildcats.

"We watched it for like, a week straight," Vick said. "It was definitely hard."

He'll have better memories of the rematch.

Vick poured in 29 points Saturday, Dedric Lawson added 28 points and 12 rebounds, and both helped the Jayhawks make just enough free throws in the closing minutes to hold off the No. 17 Wildcats 74-71 in a game that was nip-and-tuck almost the entire way.

Devon Dotson added 11 points for the Jayhawks, including four effortless free throws in the final 1:10 to help Kansas (9-0) end a three-game losing streak to Villanova -- the last two in the NCAA Tournament.

"This atmosphere was just awesome," Wildcats coach Jay Wright. "We played a great program, just a great atmosphere -- tough game -- and they just did a great job getting Lagerald Vick in spots where he wanted it, and Dedric Lawson, you know you're not going to shut them out."

Still, the Wildcats (8-4) had chances in the final couple minutes.

Collin Gillespie's three-point play drew them within 69-65 with 31 seconds left, and Vick gave them an opening when he threw the ball away on the ensuing inbounds play. But Vick atoned for the mistake by pulling down a defensive rebound, and then calmly made a pair of free throws at the other end.

Phil Booth's deep, line-drive 3 got Villanova within 71-68, and after Lawson made the second of two foul shots for a 72-68 lead, Booth added another driving layup to trim the deficit to two.

Lawson added two more free throws to restore a 72-68 lead with 7.5 seconds left, and Gillespie was fouled at the other end. He made the first but was forced to miss the second on purpose, and the ball squirted toward the Wildcats' bench, where a scrum ultimately gave Kansas the ball with 0.4 seconds left.

Once the Jayhawks inbounded the ball, they finally had a long-awaited win over the Wildcats.

Even if it came with far less on the line.

"We're still 1-2 against Villanova," Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. "We beat them in the Sweet 16. They beat us in the Elite Eight. They beat us in the Final Four. The game today was nice, but it wasn't a real game like the others were real games."

Booth finished with 29 points for the Wildcats. Eric Paschall scored 17 but was rendered ineffective down the stretch because of foul trouble, and Gillespie finished with 15 but was just 1 for 7 from 3-point range.

Kansas has now won 39 straight in Allen Fieldhouse as the nation's top-ranked team.

"They're a very good defensive team," Booth said. "We missed some shots at the end, but they did some great things defensively with their length. They just did a great job."

The Jayhawks led 33-31 at halftime, despite playing most of the way without Dotson and fellow starter Quentin Grimes. Grimes picked up three early fouls and Dotson had two, relegating them to the bench.

Their teammates picked them up with the kind of defensive effort Kansas sorely needed in their lopsided Final Four loss, when Paschall and Co. made just about shot they took. The Jayhawks harried the senior forward into a couple of crucial turnovers while largely shutting down the paint.

Villanova found its offensive stride in the second half.

Then again, so did Kansas.

And what most had envisioned as an up-and-down, back-and-forth showdown between national powers turned into precisely that. There were eight ties and eight lead changes, the majority of them in the opening minutes of the second half, as two of college basketball's blue-bloods went toe-to-toe in the Phog.

"This was a good game that allows you to have a quality win," Self said, "and you play through the experiences that make you better. But Jay would tell you, we're both going to play in bigger games than this."

No Quinerly
Villanova freshman Jahvon Quinerly watched from the bench after an Instagram post earlier in the week criticizing his own program. Wright said Quinerly had apologized and it would be used as a "teaching moment." The five-star recruit has played in only eight games this season.

Celeb sightings
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Hall of Fame Royals third baseman George Brett were in the crowd. So was a handful of former Kansas players, including Nick Collison, who is No. 2 on the school's career scoring list.

Big picture
Villanova played much better than it did in a loss to Penn earlier in the week, putting a scare into the No. 1 team in the country. But the Wildcats were just 3 of 15 from beyond the arc in the second half, and they were dominated on the glass for the second consecutive game.

Kansas has certainly earned its ranking, beating a trio of ranked teams already this season. The one thing the Jayhawks haven't done is win a true road game, and they'll get that opportunity when they head to No. 20 Arizona State next weekend.

Up next
Villanova plays UConn next Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Kansas hosts South Dakota on Tuesday night.

No. 23 Villanova survives a scare from La Salle

usa_phil_booth_eric_paschall_celebration_villanova.jpg
USA Today Images

No. 23 Villanova survives a scare from La Salle

BOX SCORE 

Villanova coach Jay Wright was raised on Big 5 hoops and considers himself a bit of a keeper of the city series' legacy. He's also quick to warn the Wildcats that anything can happen when Philly teams play at the Palestra.

"It brings me back to childhood," Wright said. "Every time I step in this building, it's a special experience. Once the game comes, I just know crazy things are going to happen. I just expect it."

Winless La Salle came primed for an upset — but the only unpredictable part of a Villanova game against a city rival is the final score of its latest win. Eric Paschall scored 27 points, Phil Booth had 19 and No. 23 Villanova held off one more upset in an 85-78 win over La Salle on Saturday.

Villanova (6-2) remained the class of the city and won its 23rd straight Big 5 game, round-robin play among five Philadelphia Division I basketball teams. The Wildcats haven't lost a city series game since Dec. 5, 2012 against Temple.

They got a pretty good scare against winless La Salle (0-8).

The Wildcats were reeling after consecutive home losses to Michigan, in a national title game rematch, and in overtime to Furman that knocked them out of the AP Top 25 poll. Villanova steadied itself with three straight wins in a Florida tournament and defeated then-No. 14 Florida State in the title game to return to the rankings.

But a return to Philly only unsettled the Wildcats early.

La Salle was the home team at the Palestra, which serves as much a museum to Philly's glorious history as it is a court for city series games to be played on. The Explorers played the first half like an undefeated team instead of a winless one and buried nine 3-pointers. The sensational sequence came at the midway point: David Beatty drew a foul on a layup and La Salle kept possession. Isiah Deas capitalized with a 3. Beatty had a steal and Jack Clark hit a 3 for a 32-20 lead that set the stage for a monster upset.

The rest of the half turned into a 3-point shootout worthy of NBA All-Star weekend, and the Wildcats closed to 42-39 at the half. The Wildcats, who lost players from the title team to the NBA, could never really shake the Explorers until the waning moments.

"We had the great confidence that over the last few years that we were eventually going to wear people down," Wright said. "Well, none of those guys are on this team, so that confidence isn't there."

That puts more responsibility on championship holdovers Booth and Paschall.

"We know how coach thinks. Whenever coach tells us something, we try to teach it to the younger guys as quick as possible," Paschall said.

Traci Carter's 3 pulled the Explorers to 69-66 and they got it within one with 5:24 left. Miles Brookins lobbed a lazy pass into the middle that was picked off by Saddiq Bey and converted into a three-point play by Booth. Paschall sucked the air out of La Salle fans with a dunk for a 78-72 lead.

Wright kept former assistant coach Ashley Howard winless in his first season on the bench at La Salle. Howard, who worked five seasons under Wright, was hired at La Salle just a week after the Wildcats won their second national championship in three seasons.

"These guys have no weaknesses because all these guys can shoot," Howard said.

The Explorers are forced to wonder how much better their upset odds would have improved had leading scorer Pookie Powell not sat out with an injury (lower body). Carter scored 17 and Deas had 15.

Big picture
Villanova: Wright made it 2-0 this season against the branches of his coaching tree. He also beat former assistant and current Quinnipiac coach Baker Dunleavy in November.

La Salle: Also played without guard Cheddi Mosely (concussion) and forward Jared Kimbrough (foot). The Explorers made 11 of their first 15 shots in the second half.

Long distance
La Salle and Villanova each hit 12 3-pointers. Booth and Paschall each had three and Deas hit five.

Up next
Villanova continues its city series games on Wednesday against Temple and Saturday against Saint Joseph's.

La Salle has a busy week with games Tuesday against Bucknell and Saturday against Penn.

Villanova opens national title defense with win over Morgan State at refurbished Pavilion

usa_villanova_eric_paschall.jpg
USA Today Images

Villanova opens national title defense with win over Morgan State at refurbished Pavilion

Updated: 10:05 p.m.

BOX SCORE 

VILLANOVA, Pa. — Villanova started to head out for the second half toward its rehabilitated court when it somehow got lost in a maze of exits and sprinted out the wrong end.

"Everything's a first," coach Jay Wright said. "We're figuring it out."

The Wildcats will quickly get used to the intricacies of their digs.

They already seem quite at home, and as dominant as usual, at the new-look Pavilion.

Eric Paschall scored 26 points, Phil Booth had 17 and No. 9 Villanova opened its national championship defense with a 100-77 win over Morgan State on Tuesday night.

"I feel like we have great potential," Paschall said.

The Wildcats always do — they've won 12 straight games dating to last season and won their 16th consecutive season opener.

The new kid on the block that shone the most was the refurbished Pavilion, which closed for a season and forced the Wildcats to play a year in Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center. Villanova's on-campus court underwent a $65 million facelift that would have made the Property Brothers jealous.

The Wildcats couldn't put a price tag on their sweetest accessory — the 2018 national championship banner raised high above midcourt. Under Wright, Villanova has won two of the last three national championships, and seating for this season is at a premium. StubHub had lower level tickets selling for $375 shortly before tip, and a gym that for three decades had a skeleton crew of concession stands suddenly had deep-pocketed donors noshing on fried shrimp, $10 Wildcat burgers and taking a nip of top-shelf booze.

"Man, it was loud, it was jumping the whole time," Wright said. "I thought the crowd was great. There's a different vibe in here. It's definitely louder. It's pretty cool."

Bad news for the Big East, the Wildcats have more of a homecourt edge.

The Pavilion's courtside press row seating was stripped to make room for 88 courtside seats, there was club seating for the first time and the concourse also wrapped 360 degrees. The lights were dimmed for an NBA-worthy lineup introduction -- kind of a big deal considering in the old joint derisively known as the "ski lodge," it took 20 minutes for the entire building to light up once the switches were flipped.

On opening night, the Pavilion was lit.

Artificial noise was pumped in and fans were encouraged to stand until the Wildcats scored their first basket. It didn't take long. Collin Gillespie hit a 3 and the Wildcats hit from long range much like they did against Michigan in the title game in San Antonio, Texas.

They just didn't look like the same Wildcats.

AP Player of the Year Jalen Brunson plays for the Dallas Mavericks. Omari Spellman is with the Atlanta Hawks. Mikal Bridges landed in Phoenix after a draft-night trade with the 76ers, and Donte DiVincenzo — who scored 31 points in the title game win over Michigan — is with the Milwaukee Bucks. That's a ton of talent that walked out the door, but the Wildcats were eager to showcase the replacements. With the Wildcats up 15 in the first half, they had Booth, who has two national championships, and four freshmen on the court.

"We actually weren't trying the lineups. We were trying for fresh bodies," Wright said.

Saddiq Bey, one of those freshman, hit 3s on his first two shots and scored 16 points. Jahvon Quinerly buried a 3 for his only bucket.

Paschall made his first six baskets and scored 19 points in the first half. Paschall and Booth showed the veterans will lead the Wildcats early will the underclassmen find their way.

"We have to listen to the old guys like Eric and Phil," Bey said.

Big picture
Morgan State: Isaiah Burke led the Bears with 17 points. Morgan State took advantage of weak Villanova defense. The Bears started 12 of 24 from the floor and only trailed 54-43 at the break. They only trailed 64-57 with 12 minutes left in the second half before the Wildcats pull away. The Bears made only five 3s to 12 for Villanova.

Villanova: The rich get richer — on the court and, well, around it — and there's little reason to think the Wildcats won't again be in the national title picture.

Bear necessities 
Morgan State had more points in the paint (48-40), points off turnovers (22-10) and off the bench (45-36).

Up next
Morgan State stays in Pennsylvania with a game Friday at St. Francis.

Villanova has one more tune-up against Quinnipiac on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center before it has a national championship game rematch against Michigan.