When the Villanova Wildcats needed help this season, they just had to dial up a Paschall to the phone Booth. Eric Paschall and Phil Booth took hold of a team which stood on uncertain ground at the end of December.
The turnaround in Philadelphia has been unmistakable: A Villanova squad which wobbled in non-conference play has found its footing in the Big East Conference. Villanova responded to its first loss of the Big East season by pulling away from the Providence Friars late on Wednesday night. An 85-67 win kept the Wildcats ahead of Marquette in the race for the Big East’s regular-season championship.
Paschall scored 25 points, 20 in the second half to fuel Villanova’s late finishing kick. Booth scored 22 points to make sure his teammate didn’t have to do all the work. Two veterans knew exactly what they had to do to keep these cool Cats on top of the Big East.
“Great leadership from our two seniors,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “They’ve been carrying us a lot.”
Providence head coach Ed Cooley had to concede that Paschall and Booth gave Villanova a presence on the court his Friars couldn’t match.
“They had a lot of adults on the floor,” Cooley said. “Most old teams win. Not many young teams win, unless they’re just the blue bloods of all blue bloods.”
Villanova has become a blue blood, one could argue, in this golden age of VU hoops under Jay Wright. The 2016 national championship might have been seen by some as a rocket-fueled run to a title, not an indication of superpower status, but following that title with a 2018 dismantling of the NCAA Tournament field certainly changed the Wildcats’ status in the larger world of college hoops. They are part of the elite power structure now.
Players such as Paschall and Booth have engineered this transformation of Villanova University basketball. How fitting that the two men have transformed this specific season from its December wobbles to its February flourishes.
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