Phil Booth and Eric Paschall have won multiple national championships with the Villanova Wildcats. They are expected to provide the lead steps for Nova in this event called the Big Dance.
Yet, the main Dance steps have to be accompanied by some side moves from the supporting cast, and that can’t be forgotten for the defending national champions, who still have a title to defend after the round of 64. The Wildcats are still alive in the NCAA Tournament after defeating the Saint Mary’s Gaels on Thursday in Hartford, Connecticut. Villanova trailed at the half, but offered a strong response after the intermission, building an eight-point lead and holding on late for a 61-57 win.
The leader of the national champions applauded Booth and Paschall but noted the improvements in that essential supporting cast.
“We’re growing, our young guys are growing, but we have two seniors who do everything for us, on and off the court,” coach Jay Wright said. “We’re just so lucky to have them.”
The key supporting-cast player on Thursday was Jermaine Samuels, who scored 12 points for Villanova. The co-champion of the Big East in the regular season and the winner of the Big East Tournament is — once again — the last Big East team left in the NCAA Tournament. If Samuels can continue to complement Booth (20 points against Saint Mary’s) and Paschall (14 points), this team might be able to get to the second weekend and make a run at the South Regional championship.
“We weren’t doing that bad, actually,” Booth said. “It was more that they were playing very well and we were trying to match how they were bringing it. I think we just had to take it to another level, because they were playing at a high level.”
Villanova will now need to take it to another level on Saturday in Hartford against Purdue. The Boilermakers lost in the Sweet 16 last March in Boston, falling one game short of meeting Villanova in the Elite Eight. Now, these two teams will face each other.
The Villanova supporting cast will need to grow even more in this next clash.
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