PHILADELPHIA, PA. 12/21/2018 – The #3 Villanova Wildcats came off an impressive win at Xavier. Would the Wildcats continue to gain momentum? That question was answered yes, without a doubt posting an impressive 93 – 62 win over the DePaul Blue Demons.
Villanova did it with a little of the old; good shooting and defense. And they added a little of the new as guard Phil Booth returned from injury. It looks like Villanova is deep again.
For the game Booth made 4 of his 6 field goal attempts, and was 2 of 4 from deep. He finished with 14 points and added 3 rebounds.
“It felt good, just a little rust by not playing in games for about a month,” Booth said. “I just wanted to get back out there and help the team.”
“I am amazed you can have a cast on your wrist for five weeks and come out and practice like he did yesterday,” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright about the return of Booth. “When he took the cast off it looked like nothing was wrong, and he looked pretty good tonight.”
“He looked completely fine.”
The Wildcats shot an impressive 34 for 57 (59.6%) and was good on 10 of 23 three-point shots. Mikal Bridges led the team with 27 points, one shy of his career-high. He made 9 of 12 from the floor, 4 of 7 from beyond the arc.
“He leads us and knows how to play Villanova basketball,” Bridges said about the impact of Booth returning to the team. “We are happy to have him back.”
Three other Wildcats scored in double-digits. Forward Eric Paschall scored 16 points. Forward Omari Spellman added 10 points and pulled down a team-high 7 rebounds. Guard Jalen Brunson contributed 11 points and handed out 7 assists.
“It’s a good night for us getting the whole team back together,” said Wright. “It’s nice to have everybody back and healthy.”
Although the Blue Demons made 43.3% (29 0f 67), they converted just 4 of 20 from beyond the arc. Turnovers would play a factor as Nova had a 27 – 14 advantage in points off turnovers. Five Nova players had at least one steal. Bridges and Donte DiVincenzo stole the ball three times. Steals leads to run out baskets. The easier shots help the shooting percentage.
Forward Max Strus scored a team-high 21 points for DePaul. Fellow forward Martin Maric chipped in with 12 points. Guard Eli Cain had a game-high 8 assists. Forward Paul Reed took down a game-best 8 rebounds.
Villanova improves to 25 – 3 overall and are 12 – 3 in the Big East. The Cats remain a half game behind league leading Xavier, who has two more games remaining in the regular season. Nova has three more, and should they win-out would claim the regular season title again. The road is not easy as Villanova will travel to Creighton and Seton Hall before wrapping up at home against Georgetown. Nova owns the tie-breaker over Xavier.
The Cats will be deeper, and now that takes on added importance.
“We’re going to play in Omaha at 1:30 on Saturday,” Wright said. “We’ve been going 36, 37 (minutes) for some of our guys. It’s really important. I didn’t know what to expect from Phil, but we’ll get into a rhythm and a rotation now that he is back. We still have a lot of room for improvement.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian