Villanova Wildcats

Martelli: 'We're witnessing a blue blood' with No. 4 Villanova

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Martelli: 'We're witnessing a blue blood' with No. 4 Villanova

You’ll never hear Jay Wright tell you how good his own team is. That’s not really the Villanova coach’s style. 

Perhaps a better person to discuss the dominance of the fourth-ranked Wildcats is someone who knows them well — someone like Saint Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli. And what better time to do it than right after Villanova’s ridiculously lopsided 94-53 win over the Hawks on Saturday at Hagan Arena (see observations)?

“There’s nothing they really miss,” Martelli said. “There’s nothing. Jay is an extraordinary spokesperson. I marvel at it. … For a long time, we’ve always thought it was Villanova and Jay Wright. Well, we’re now witnessing a blue blood. That’s the way the blue bloods do things. 

“I’ve actually had conversations with (Kentucky coach) John Calipari, and I’ll say, ‘Cal, with promoting, coaching and recruiting, you used to be first, second and third. Now I think you’re first and Jay Wright’s second.’ There’s nothing that he misses. There’s nothing. And he’s a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful man.”

There’s no question Villanova has been one of the best teams in the country over the past five seasons as the Wildcats have racked up 30-win campaigns and Big East championships. And there was that whole 2016 national title thing, too.

But putting them in the same category as blue bloods like Duke, Kansas and Calipari’s Kentucky is still something many college basketball fans around the country might not consider — but an appropriate way to understand the heights this program has reached.

It’s not just that the Wildcats have raced out to an 8-0 start despite losing program pillars Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds. It’s how they’re steamrolling teams, sucking the life out of them midway through a game after they keep it close. 

On Saturday at Hagan, St. Joe’s actually was right there, trailing 29-27 late in the first half as the home crowd rocked. At that point, was Wright expecting another classic, down-to-the-wire Big 5 battle?

“Hell yeah,” the Villanova coach said. “I did. We came ready to play, we really did. But they really out-scrapped us early. They got to loose balls. We got a couple fouls diving for loose balls because they got there first. … We said in the huddle, ‘You gotta weather this, man, because they’re coming at us. We gotta keep battling. It’s gonna have to be 40 minutes.’”

But things have changed now. Opposing teams have to be perfect to even stay with the Wildcats, who rarely make mistakes or take their foot off the gas. And the Hawks, who were missing standouts Lamarr Kimble (left foot) and Charlie Brown (left wrist), were not as Villanova blew the doors off their rival to win their 20th straight Big 5 game in memorable fashion.

“They’ve got two starters out and we played great,” Wright said. “That’s the bottom line.”

How great did the Wildcats play? You can start with the 19 three-pointers they made, which is a program record. Then you can look at their 24 assists on 33 made baskets. Or how six different players (Mikal Bridges, Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth, Donte DiVincenzo, Collin Gillespie, Omari Spellman) made multiple threes. Or how their defense completely smothered the Hawks.

Put it all together and it explains how a team goes on a 26-2 run, between two halves, on the road, against a formidable foe. Even still, Booth wasn’t sure how to explain how easily the Wildcats have been dispatching Big 5 opponents during their 20-game win streak.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I just learned from the older guys when I got here how important it is, how hard it is to play in this environment, how you have to depend on each other. I don’t have a reason for it but I’m glad we do play well here.”

Wright credited Booth, who finished with 17 points and eight rebounds, for helping to “set the tone” and is proud how well the guard has returned to form after a redshirt season.

“When you come into a tough arena like this,” the ’Nova coach said, “you gotta have guys who have been through it.”

He also praised Spellman’s inside-out game. Despite not starting due to missing his target weight, the redshirt freshman had 16 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 4 for 5 from behind the arc.

“That really helps,” Wright said. “His ability to shoot threes, he could always do it. We knew it. We probably weren’t doing a good enough to job to put him in a position to get them.”

How do you stop Villanova when their big man is hitting threes, along with Brunson, Bridges, Booth, DiVincenzo and Gillispie? 

La Salle and Temple will both get a crack at it over the next 11 days as Villanova chases its fifth straight perfect Big 5 season. So will another national juggernaut in Gonzaga in three days at Madison Square Garden.

Martelli has coached and seen plenty of great teams in his tenure, and he knows it won’t be easy.

“If they want to know what the top looks like,” the St. Joe’s coach said of his players after Saturday’s loss, “that’s what the top looks like.” 

No. 8 Villanova stunned by Furman in OT

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No. 8 Villanova stunned by Furman in OT

VILLANOVA, Pa. -- First, it was Loyola. Next came Villanova.

One by one, Furman is picking off teams from last year's Final Four and proving to be the surprise story of the first month of the college basketball season.

Jordan Lyons scored 17 points, Matt Rafferty had 15 points and 17 rebounds, and Furman stunned the defending national champion and eighth-ranked Wildcats in overtime, 76-68 on Saturday.

"We're just tiny old Furman," coach Bob Richey said. "Most people ask us what state we're in, what city we're in. Now all of a sudden people are starting to figure out who Furman is."

If opponents and fans aren't paying attention to the team from Greenville, South Carolina, they'd better start now.

Clay Mounce added 15 points and Noah Gurley and Alex Hunter scored 13 apiece for the surging Paladins, who have started 5-0 for the first time in 30 years.

Lyons and Rafferty delivered huge buckets in overtime to key a 7-0 spurt that put the Paladins ahead 69-63 in the final minute, enough cushion for them to hang on for the victory in front of a shocked sellout crowd at the recently renovated Finneran Pavilion.

"It almost can bring me to tears to think about how proud I am of the resolve, the resiliency and the fight this team has," Richey said. "They play together, they play connected. It's the definition of a team."

Phil Booth scored 20 points and Colin Gillespie had 19 for the Wildcats (2-2), who were coming off a 27-point loss to Michigan in a rematch of April's national championship game. It marked the first time Villanova lost back-to-back games since March of 2013.

"It's not that shocking, to be honest," Booth said. "They're a very good team. We're still a young team trying to find our way."

Trailing 58-53 with under four minutes to play in regulation, Joe Cremo hit a 3-pointer, Booth scored and Gillespie made a layup in transition to put Villanova in front, 60-58, in the final minute.

After Lyons hit two free throws to tie the game at 60, Booth missed on the other end and Hunter misfired on a long 3-pointer in the final seconds. Cremo was called for a foul while going for the rebound, but Rafferty couldn't connect on the front end of a 1-and-1 with 2.6 seconds left, setting the game up for OT.

Rafferty said his teammates picked him up and told him to make up for the missed free throw in overtime - which he did.

"This was incredible," Rafferty said. "I've never been a part of something like this."

Villanova beats Quinnipiac, cruises to another win ahead of test vs. Michigan

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Villanova beats Quinnipiac, cruises to another win ahead of test vs. Michigan

Updated: 12:13 a.m.

PHILADELPHIA — Having been a part of the coaching staff that brought Phil Booth to Villanova, Quinnipiac coach Baker Dunleavy knows exactly what the Villanova senior is capable of.

"He's every bit as good as any player in the country and I think he'll show that this year," Dunleavy said.

Booth scored a career-best 23 points in No. 9 Villanova's 86-53 victory over Quinnipiac on Saturday night at Wells Fargo Center, where a 2018 national championship banner was raised.

Booth, a senior, made three of his six attempts from beyond the arc and shot 7 for 16 overall. He added three rebounds and five assists. Booth missed most of 2016-17 with knee issues and part of last season with a hand injury. He's now averaging 20 a game through two contests.

Villanova (2-0) led by double digits from the 13:10 mark of the first half onward and led by as many as 37. The Wildcats out-rebounded Quinnipiac, 50-29, and grabbed 20 off the offensive glass, leading to 26 second chance points.

Dunleavy, who played at Villanova and was on the team's coaching staff from 2010 to 2017, told Villanova coach Jay Wright that he knew the "buzz-saw" was coming after watching the tape from Villanova's season opening win against Morgan State.

"We really wanted to come in here and build confidence by playing this game," Dunleavy said "It's hard to do that when you get jumped on early and that's what happened."

Quinnipiac made one of its first 11 attempts from the floor, allowing Villanova to build an early 18-3 lead less than 10 minutes into the game. Villanova, which shot 7 of 15 from beyond the three-point arc in the first half, got a three pointer from freshman Saddiq Bey before the first half buzzer sounded to take a 47-20 lead into halftime.

The Wildcats, at that point, had more points on three pointers than the Bobcats had total points. Villanova forced nine first half turnovers.

"Our full-court pressure really did a good job," Wright said.

Joining Booth in double figures for the Wildcats were sophomore guard Collin Gillespie, who shot 4 of 6 from deep and finished 16 points, and senior forward Eric Paschall, who scored 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting and added eight rebounds and three assists.

Cameron Young's 18 points paced Quinnipiac.

Homecoming
Dunleavy played at Villanova in the early 2000s under Wright and later joined his coaching staff in 2010. In his second season at Quinnipiac, Saturday marked the first time Dunleavy faced his former mentor.

"It's fun to see all those guys, but not under these circumstances," Dunleavy said. "This is a one time thing."

Wright said it wasn't particularly comfortable for him, too.

"It seemed like a good idea when we talked about it, but then when it comes the week before and I'm watching film of them do what we do, I said to our team, whatever play we call, they know everything we do," Wright said. "It's going to be tough to run specific plays. I didn't particularly enjoy it, really."

Big picture
Quinnipiac: In their season debut, the Bobcats got behind early and couldn't recover against their elite opponent. A less daunting stretch of nonconference games awaits.

Villanova: In a warmup before playing No. 19 Michigan at their newly renovated on-campus stadium, the Wildcats showed off their deep but relatively young rotation for the second consecutive game.

"We weren't thinking about Wednesday coming into this game," Booth said. "We were thinking about Quinnipiac. That was our main focus. Now it's time to get ready for Michigan."

Up next
Quinnipiac: Hosts Hartford on Thursday night.

Villanova: Hosts No. 19 Michigan on Wednesday night.