Villanova Wildcats

Villanova boosts No. 1 seed résumé as Wright ties career wins record

usa-villanova-georgetown-omari-spellman.jpg
USA Today Images

Villanova boosts No. 1 seed résumé as Wright ties career wins record

BOX SCORE 

Jay Wright found another fashionable tie at Villanova.

The GQ coach with a national title on his finely tailored resume hit another milestone that suits him on the sideline: Wright moved into a tie atop Villanova's career wins list with 413 in the fourth-ranked Wildcats' 97-73 victory over Georgetown on Saturday night.

Wright improved to 413-165 since he took the job in 2001 and has led the Wildcats to the 2009 Final Four and 2016 national championship. He matched Al Severance, who went 413-201 from 1936-1961. Wright can top Severance with a win in the Big East Tournament.

"The real thrill and the pride comes with just being the coach at Villanova," Wright said. "That's enough for me."

The Wildcats head to Madison Square Garden as the No. 2 seed after their run of four straight regular-season conference titles was ended by Xavier.

There's little worry on the Main Line that Villanova can't make a deep run in the postseason. The Wildcats (27-4, 14-4) beat Xavier twice this season and will surely be a No. 1 or 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

But losing their grip on the Big East title still stung the Wildcats.

"You definitely would love to win a championship. This is the time you look at it," Wright said. "I purposely didn't look at that (Xavier) game today. You would definitely rather win the championship. So you take from that, what did you learn?"

They learned how to punish the Hoyas wire-to-wire.

They used the Hoyas (15-14, 5-13) as little more than a tune-up in the finale and took a 15-point lead in the first half that was never seriously challenged. Mikal Bridges scored 24 points and Jalen Brunson solidified his player of the year candidacy with 16 points and seven assists.

Brunson and Bridges, two underclassmen likely playing their final home game, received a standing ovation from the crowd of 18,523.

Yes, the Wildcats had been upset at the Wells Fargo Center this season by St. John's, a team that was winless in the Big East, but the outcome seemed a mere formality against Patrick Ewing's Hoyas.

The Hoyas missed all nine 3-point attempts in the first half. Jesse Govan scored 30 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field and he went 10-for-10 from the free-throw line.

"They make you pay for every mistake that you make," Ewing said.

The second half served as a mere countdown toward Wright's ascension to a share of the top of the record book.

Wright led the Wildcats, who won the 1985 national title under his mentor Rollie Massimino, to their greatest run of success in program history. They've won at least 32 games each of the previous three seasons and he's led them to the NCAAs all but one year (2012) since 2005.

Wright, a Churchville, Pennsylvania native, played college basketball at Bucknell and started as an assistant at Rochester and Drexel. He spent five seasons at Villanova as Massimino's assistant, then followed him to UNLV for another two years before taking the head coaching job at Hofstra in 1994.

Hired in 2001 to replace Steve Lappas, Wright took the Wildcats to the top of every meaningful stat -- including an eight-week stint this year at No. 1 in the AP Top 25 poll.

"Coach wants us to be the best we can be," Bridges said.

Big Picture 
Georgetown: The Hoyas will have to win the Big East to earn an NCAA bid. They've lost four straight. ... The Hoyas played without F Marcus Derrickson (15.7 points, 8.1 rebounds) because of an injured right ankle.

Villanova: The Wildcats have to escape New York without any significant injuries to key players to have a shot at starting March Madness as one of the favorites to win it all. ... The Wildcats went 11-1 this year at the Wells Fargo Center, their one-year home while the on-campus Pavilion is renovated. "I miss the Pavilion, I'll be honest," Brunson said. ... Made all 13 free throws.

Kid Stuff
Ewing recalled the days when Brunson tagged along with dad Rick Brunson in the New York Knicks locker room in the late 1990s. Ewing's son used to babysit Brunson.

"He was about 4 or 5 and he never left my locker," Ewing said. "I wish back then I knew I'd be coaching. I'd have started recruiting him from back then."

Up Next
Georgetown: Plays St. John's at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Big East Tournament.

Villanova: The Wildcats play the winner of the No. 7-10 game at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at MSG.

No. 21 Villanova beats Saint Joseph's for 25th straight Big 5 win

usa_joe_cremo_jermaine_samuels_villanova_basketball.jpg
USA Today Images

No. 21 Villanova beats Saint Joseph's for 25th straight Big 5 win

BOX SCORE 

VILLANOVA, Pa. -- Villanova soared to the top of the college basketball world by capturing national championships in two of the last three seasons.

The Wildcats have been kings of their own city for much longer.

Eric Paschall had 14 points and nine rebounds, and No. 21 Villanova beat Saint Joseph's 70-58 on Saturday for its 25th straight Big 5 victory.

Joe Cremo and Phil Booth scored 12 points apiece as the Wildcats (8-2) continued their dominance of the long-standing city series with Philadelphia rivals Saint Joseph's, Penn, La Salle and Temple. Jermaine Samuels added 11 points.

"It's just the intensity of it," Samuels said. "We're getting every team's best shot. They're not giving up. That's the biggest takeaway I've gotten from these Big 5 games."

Lamarr Kimble led Saint Joseph's (5-5) with 22 points. The Hawks played without Charlie Brown after the top scorer in the Atlantic 10 sprained his ankle in a win at Princeton on Wednesday.

Saint Joseph's struggled offensively, shooting 34.5 percent (20 for 58) from the field. The Hawks went 6 for 27 from 3-point range and 12 for 18 from the foul line.

"We've been getting kicked in the (butt) all year with missed layups," Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said. "I think the same thing happened today."

Trailing 62-40 midway through the second half, the Hawks went on a 16-0 run to make things interesting. But a Booth 3-pointer and a Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree three-point play with 1:05 remaining helped seal Villanova's sixth straight win.

"We're starting to get more organized," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "I think guys are starting to get more comfortable with each other. But we still have a lot of work to do."

Fresh off come-from-behind Big 5 victories over La Salle and Temple, Villanova began to pull away from Saint Joseph's late in the first half, taking a 38-28 lead into halftime on the strength of four 3-pointers from Cremo and two from Paschall, including one in the final minute.

The Wildcats extended their lead to 48-31 three minutes into the second half after back-to-back buckets from freshman Cole Swider capped a 10-0 run. Swider scored all eight of his points in the second half.

"It's hard as a freshman to come into these games," Wright said. "That's going to be the story of the season - how we can develop our young guys and our new guys."

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.