MILWAUKEE – Villanova is not unaccustomed to getting through the demanding Big East schedule with a lack of depth. The Wildcats went through much of last season with a seven-man rotation and still earned a No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.
Now, because of an injury to starting guard Phil Booth, the top-ranked ‘Cats will try to be successful using basically a seven-man rotation once again, starting Sunday against Marquette at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
Booth, a redshirt junior, is out indefinitely after suffering a fractured bone in his shooting hand late in the second half of Tuesday night’s 89-69 victory over Providence. It’s another spell of bad luck for Booth, who sat out all but the first three games of last season with a chronic knee injury.
The Wildcats (19-1, 6-1 Big East) were down to a seven-man rotation after freshmen Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels were sidelined with injuries in December. When Gillespie returned for the Georgetown game on Jan. 17, they were back to an eight-man rotation and to the 2-2-1 zone press that Jay Wright likes to utilize.
And now …
“We were playing basically with 7 ½ guys before Collin got back,” the Villanova coach said. “Then Collin got back and we got our press going again. We’re going to have to just use it kind of prudently now again because we don’t want to wear our guys out.”
In its last three games, with the help of the press, Villanova has held Georgetown, Connecticut, and Providence to less than 40 percent shooting.
Booth was the team’s fourth-leading scorer with an 11.3-point average and was shooting 43 percent from three-point range.
“It’s not just his shooting and his defense, but he’s really the most well-respected, the most loved guy on this team,” Wright said. “He’s a big part of the spirit of the team. It doesn’t mean we can’t be successful and play a different way, but it’s a big loss. I don’t mean that as an excuse. I mean it as a tribute to him.”
Donte DiVincenzo, who averages 27.5 minutes as the Cats’ sixth man, will take Booth’s place in the starting lineup. Wright raised the possibility that he may play a little bigger with 6-foot-7 Eric Paschall, 6-8 Omari Spellman, and 6-8 Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, who combined for 44 points against Providence.
Redshirt sophomore forward Tim Delaney could see some spot time as an eighth man, especially if a teammate gets into foul trouble.
The Wildcats are returning to the scene of a 74-72 upset loss to the Golden Eagles last season, a game that Marquette led for just 22 seconds. Villanova held a 17-point lead early in the second half but scored just four points in the final 6 minutes, 43 seconds.
The Golden Eagles also refused to go away in a 100-90 loss to ‘Nova last Jan. 13 at the Wells Fargo Center.
“They played us really tough here, we couldn’t put them away,” Wright said. “It’s the same thing they did last year out there. So we have great respect for their resiliency and how hard they play.”