After a pair of impressive victories during the last week, Villanova returned to the top 25 of the Associated Press poll on Monday, being voted No. 22 by the panel of media members.
The Wildcats (13-4, 4-0 Big East) won, 76-71, Tuesday at Finneran Pavilion against No. 24 St. John’s, then traveled to Creighton and captured a 90-78 victory Sunday over the Bluejays to remain the only undefeated team in conference play.
Villanova, which was ranked No. 9 in the preseason, appeared in the top 25 for five of the first six weeks of the season but fell out of the rankings last month after losing back-to-back games to Penn and Kansas. The Wildcats continued receiving votes in the poll the past four weeks, and last week led the group of teams that did not make the first 25.
Winners of five straight games overall, the Wildcats have been led in conference play by the senior tandem of guard Phil Booth and forward Eric Paschall.
In four Big East games, Booth, who had a team-high 28 points against Creighton, including 19 in the second half, is averaging 22.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists and shooting nearly 50 percent both overall and from three-point range.
Paschall, who has played 153 of a possible 160 minutes in conference games, averages 20.8 points and 8.8 rebounds. He has connected on almost 53 percent of his field-goal attempts and is 90.5 percent on free throws.
For the season, Booth has scored 18.2 points per game and Paschall is at 16.5.
The Wildcats played one of their best halves of the season against Creighton, limiting the Bluejays, the No. 3 field-goal percentage team in NCAA Division I, to 40 percent shooting in the second half. Villanova held a 20-12 rebounding advantage in the period and led for the final 12 minutes, 47 seconds of the game.
Villanova coach Jay Wright said he appreciates the way Booth and Paschall have brought along the younger players and helped the Wildcats’ overall growth.
“It’s what we need if we’re going to be a good team,” he said. “Phil and E can’t carry us the whole season; they’ll get worn down. But the younger players are really starting to come. That’s what we’re going to have to do to beat good teams like Creighton on the road.”
Owls on radar in poll
Temple didn’t earn a national ranking after dealing Houston its first loss of the season, but the Owls received five points from AP voters.
The way the point total works, a team receives 25 points for a first-place vote, down to one point for a 25th-place vote. The Owls (13-3, 3-1 American Athletic Conference) went 2-0 last week, including the 73-69 win over Houston, which was ranked 17th at the time. The Cougars (16-1) remained in the top 25 this week at No. 21.
Temple also beat South Florida, 82-80, in overtime on Saturday for its third straight win.
Staff writer Marc Narducci contributed to this report.