The expression that Phil Booth exhibits on a basketball court rarely changes, whether Villanova’s fifth-year senior guard is pouring in three-pointers or watching his shots fall off the rim.
The latter scenario hasn’t happened too much this season for the 14th-ranked Wildcats, who will host Creighton on Wednesday night in their first game at Finneran Pavilion in nearly a month. But when it happened Sunday in a taut battle against Georgetown, Booth just kept playing.
“We never really focus on making shots or missing shots,” Booth said Tuesday after practice, “so it’s just constantly playing defense and rebounding whether our shots are going in or not. So I just stayed aggressive the whole game and the shots started falling late. I think we could have won if we got more stops anyway.”
After starting the game 2-of-12, Booth sank a layup and then his first three-point basket of the game on back-to-back possessions, sparking a 16-2 run that carried the Wildcats (18-4, 9-0 Big East) to their 10th straight victory. He finished with 14 points on 5-of-15 shooting with two threes.
Villanova coach Jay Wright said Jalen Brunson, who was in town Sunday to be honored in a special pregame Senior Day ceremony, told Booth after the game, “You needed a game like that."
“He said, ‘You’ve been having all these great games. You needed to have a game where you did all the little things and stayed positive when you weren’t making your shots. It was a great game for you,’” Wright said.
“And I felt the same way. It’s always nice to win but I thought he did a great job of keeping his composure, still defending, still rebounding, not taking any bad shots and then hitting big shots at the end. So it couldn’t have worked out better. He’ll learn a great lesson, and the younger guys see how he kept his composure and you could still win.”
Two of those younger guys, both sophomores, had career games -- Collin Gillespie scored 30 points including six threes, and Jermaine Samuels pulled down 16 rebounds, the most by a Wildcat in more than two years.
Creighton (13-9, 4-5) has won three of its last four games, the latest a 76-54 home win over Xavier. The Bluejays, who are fourth in the nation in both field-goal percentage (50.4) and in three-point percentage (41.8), lost, 90-78, to the Wildcats on Jan. 13 in Omaha.
This will be Villanova’s last game before its showdown Saturday against No. 10 Marquette in Milwaukee, a matchup of the Big East’s top two teams. Wright said he hadn’t said anything about not looking ahead to his team, but …
“I don’t feel like I do, but I’ll learn after this game whether I do or not,” he said. “I’ve thought about it a lot and by watching them, I think they’re mature, they’re focused on the next game. It doesn’t seem to affect them at all. But you never know with 18- to 22-year-olds until you step on that court and see how they react Wednesday night.”
Booth learned Tuesday that he had been named to the 10-man watch list for the Jerry West Award given to the nation’s outstanding shooting guard.