Villanova Wildcats

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."

Big picture

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.

No. 20 Villanova holds off Delaware

USA Today Images/Bill Streicher

No. 20 Villanova holds off Delaware


NEWARK, N.J. — Playing with a young team, Villanova coach Jay Wright has discovered that even winning can be a learning experience for the No. 20 Wildcats.

The days of Phil Booth and Eric Paschall stepping up in crunch time for the Wildcats ended when their college careers concluded last season.

The new kids have to step up and, fortunately, a lot of guys are carrying the load.

Jermaine Samuels scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half and Villanova won its season-high fourth straight game by getting double-digit performances by five players to hold off Delaware 78-70 on Saturday in the Never Forget Tribute Classic at the Prudential Center.

"It does boost their morale," Wright said of sharing the scoring load. "Guys like to score. That's one of the things we like to teach a young team -- don't evaluate yourselves on whether you score. So when five guys score they're all happy. Guys like to score. It's a normal human characteristic. They're feeling good right now. "

Justin Moore came off the bench to score 16, Saddiq Bey had 13, Cole Swider 12 and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl 10 as the Wildcats (8-2) beat the Blue Hens (9-2) for the 15th straight time.

Nate Darling scored 29 points for Delaware, which has lost two straight after setting a school record by starting the season with nine consecutive wins for coach Martin Ingelsby. Kevin Anderson added 14 points, while Justyn Mutts had eight points and 11 rebounds.

"We had epic battles when Mike Brey was there," Wright of the former Delaware coach who is now at Notre Dame. "I always remember those games. They're really intelligent defensively, to Martin's credit."

Darling, who was 10 of 19 from the field, hit a long 3-pointer with 13:15 left the game to get the Blue Hens to within 47-46 and give the Wildcats and Wright some concern.

Moore hit two free throws on the Wildcats' next possession and Collin Gillespie, who had an off game with seven points, hit a 3-pointer to push the advantage to 52-46.

Delaware never got closer than three the rest of the way as the Wildcats opened a 10-point lead in the final minutes.

“I do think we played well on a big stage," Ingelsby said. "We went for it. We were fearless. A testament to Villanova, they made winning plays and their free throws. I thought when we had it to three points we could put a little game pressure on them and get it tied or take the lead, and they made some plays. We could never get it to a one- or two-point game."

Villanova hit 9 of its first 12 shots in building a 22-10 lead less than seven minutes in. The Wildcats made only six baskets the rest of the half, taking a 37-32 lead. Most of their shots were from the outside and they never got to the free-throw line.

Darling and Anderson kept the Blue Hens close, scoring 11 and nine points, respectively.

In the opening game of the doubleheader at the Prudential Center, Mississippi State rallied late to beat Kansas State 67-61.

Big picture

Delaware: The Blue Hens have one of their best teams and this was a shot at upsetting the Wildcats.

Villanova: The Wildcats find ways to win. In this one, they pushed the ball inside in the second half to break it open.

Villanova connection

Ingelsby is the son of former Wildcats standout guard Tom Ingelsby. He played at the school from 1970-73, helping Villanova reach the NCAA title game in 1971. Former Wildcat Dylan Painter transferred to Delaware after last season and he is eligible to play his first game on Monday.

Up next

Delaware: Hosts Delaware State on Monday night.

Villanova: Hosts No. 2 Kansas on Saturday in a Big East-Big Ten matchup.

No. 23 Villanova holds off Saint Joseph's surge for Big 5 win

USA Today Images

No. 23 Villanova holds off Saint Joseph's surge for Big 5 win


Villanova nearly came undone completing an exhausting stretch of three games in six days against regional rivals.

Instead, the Wildcats found a final burst of energy, and that spoiled a frantic rally by their Main Line neighbors.

Saddiq Bey scored 22 points, Collin Gillespie had 20 and No. 23 Villanova held off a second-half comeback from Saint Joseph's to win 78-66 Saturday.

Villanova (7-2) led 41-25 at halftime, but Saint Joseph's Ryan Daly scored 22 of his 32 points after halftime to get the Hawks within 65-62 with 4:03 left. The Wildcats responded with a 13-4 run to end it.

"This will be good for us," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "We've gone through a really tough stretch here, and we really haven't had a chance to practice. Now, we'll get a gap where we can work on some things. And it's always good when you can work on it after a win."

Justin Moore added 14 points and Jermaine Samuels had 12 for Villanova. The Wildcats have won 28 of 29 against Big 5 opponents since 2012.

The Hawks have lost seven straight overall and eight consecutive against Villanova since 2011. Daly was the only Saint Joseph's player with more than eight points.

"I'd much rather not had the 32 points if we ended up winning the game," Daly said. "That was the most important thing, and it didn't happen."

Saint Joseph's got within three on two occasions in the second half, including after Daly's two free throws with 4:08 left.

The Wildcats pulled away thanks to 8-for-8 shooting from the foul line in the last 2:11.

"We had a lot of tough games like this last year that helped us out," Bey said. "These games help you mature."

Big picture

Villanova: After a 2-0 week and winning three straight over Big 5 opponents, Villanova will likely remain in the AP Top 25 somewhere around their current ranking. The team has two games - Saturday against Delaware in Newark, a Dec. 21 home game against Kansas - before starting Big East play on Dec. 30 against Xavier.

Saint Joseph's: The Hawks - in their first season under coach Billy Lange - showed some signs of life despite poor shooting.

"There are no such things as moral victories," Lange said. "However, I've kept a notebook that asks if we played hard that I fill out when I get into my car or on the bus after a game. And clearly, we did that today against a national championship program."

Up next

Villanova: The Wildcats are off until next Saturday when they play Delaware in the Never Forget Tribute at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

Saint Joseph's: The Hawks travel to Temple on Tuesday night.