Follow CBSPHILLY Facebook | Twitter
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Midway through the second half against Xavier, Villanova’s Phil Booth launched a 3-pointer that bounced high off the rim before dropping through the net. Things are just falling the right way for Booth and the Wildcats right now.
Booth scored 22 points, Collin Gillespie added 18 and No. 22 Villanova beat Xavier 85-75 on Friday night for its sixth straight win.
Eric Paschall added 17 points and eight rebounds for the Wildcats (14-4, 5-0 Big East), who shot 50 percent from the field and made 15 3-pointers to remain the only unbeaten team in the conference.
“We’re kind of surviving right now,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “It’s not a pretty 5-0. But we’re learning.”
Tyrique Jones led Xavier (11-8, 3-3) with 21 points and 12 rebounds while Naji Marshall scored 15. The Musketeers were coming off come-from-behind wins over Georgetown and Butler.
Trailing by 11 early in the second half, Xavier went on an 8-0 run, capped by back-to-back 3-pointers from Marshall and Ryan Welage, and pulled within one on Paul Scruggs’ 3 with 10:56 remaining.
Booth and Jermaine Samuels combined for the next eight points, with Booth getting the shooter’s bounce on a pivotal 3-pointer with 9:35 remaining. Gillespie helped seal the win with his third 3-pointer of the half to put Villanova up 67-55 with six minutes left.
Gillespie shot 6 for 10 from 3-point range while Booth, who’s scored at least 20 points in each of his last four games, made 5 of 9 attempts from behind the arc.
“The scoring part doesn’t really matter,” said Booth, a fifth-year senior who played key roles on Villanova’s 2016 and 2018 national championship teams. “I think a lot of guys can score. I’m just embracing the journey on this team.”
The first half was a study in contrasting styles as all but three of Xavier’s points came in the paint while Villanova made eight 3-pointers on 18 attempts. Zach Hankins, a 6-foot-11 graduate transfer from Ferris State who was the 2018 NABC Division II Player of the Year, paced Xavier with all 12 of his points before the break.
Xavier’s first-year coach Travis Steele was disappointed with himself for not keeping Hankins on the floor as much in the second half, but was happy with how his team handled itself in front of more than 12,000 fans at the Wells Fargo Center.
“It gives me confidence as a coach that we can compete with anyone in this league,” Steele said. “I’m proud of the way our guys fought all the way to the last second of the game.”
(©Copyright 2019 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)