City 6 observations, Vol. 11:
You leave your car Sunday afternoon, Villanova’s radio broadcast describing the Wildcats up 13 on Seton Hall, just after halftime. You get inside, and by the time you turn on the television, the Wildcats are up 22.
That’s what the recent Villanova powerhouse teams had done so often, play tough “D,” grind out a game, then suddenly hit a run of threes to put things away. You check the scoring. Eric Paschall three, assisted by Saddiq Bey. Phil Booth three, assisted by Collin Gillespie. Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree dunk, assisted by Booth. Gillespie three. Booth three.
How has this happened that Villanova, the group that got slaughtered at home by Michigan and beaten at home by Furman and lost the Big 5 crown to Penn, now is alone atop the Big East, with a home-and-home against Marquette destined to decide the regular-season crown?
In addition to Jay Wright’s getting the rotation puzzle down as much as possible, start with Booth, who is playing as confidently as anybody in America.
You know the history. A guy who scored 20 points in an NCAA championship game is still going three seasons later. It’s almost unfair that Villanova has that kind of muscle memory after two NCAA titles, but Villanova needed it with all its new guys.
There was an adjustment to being the guy, or the co-guy with Paschall. The adjustment ended with the new year. In Big East games, Booth is fourth in the league in scoring, tied for third in assists, sixth in three-point percentage, first in three-pointers made, second in assist-to-turnover ratio.
He even makes the Big East defensive rebounding leaders’ list: 13th, one of only two players under 6-foot-6 in that top 13. (Butler guard Kamar Baldwin is 12th.)
Can Booth keep all that up, with scouting reports designed to slow him? Keep your radios and TVs on.
It’s one of the biggest reasons the Owls missed a golden opportunity to take out Cincinnati on Sunday at the Liacouras Center. Temple needs more offensive production from its frontcourt, and sophomore J.P. Moorman provided it as best as he could, scoring 20 points, making 8 of 11 shots, including 3 of 5 three-pointers. A left corner three after a drive and kickout by Shizz Alston gave Temple a 20-11 lead. An elbow jumper put it at 24-15, followed by a three for a 27-17 lead, and another one from the right corner pushed the lead out to 33-19.
Hawks top scorer Charlie Brown did a good job of taking what Penn gave him Saturday night, and the Quakers weren’t giving outside jumpers. The only one Brown made was when Penn’s Antonio Woods hit the bench for a quick rest. Maybe the rest got even quicker because of that. Watch Woods during a game. He’s sticking close to his assigned man, maybe living with giving up something inside, knowing there’s help to be had in that area. Brown still had 27 points, but the numbers really did tell the story. He made 10 of 15 two-pointers, 1 of 8 three-pointers.
A sign of progress that Brown took what was given?
“No, we lost,'' Hawks coach Phil Martelli said. “There’s not a progress here. He’s playing the game easier. ... And I don’t mean this against Charlie, but there are, I don’t know, 150 college games today, and that means there are 300 leading scorers in those games. To me, being a leading scorer and you don’t win, that’s empty. There are going to be 300 of 'em — 150 of 'em, it means nothing.”
That makes Penn freshman Bryce Washington one of the 150 leading scorers that meant something. By now, you’ve seen the Quakers freshman is a difference-making catch-and-shooter, getting 18 of his 23 points from beyond the arc Saturday, also adding 10 rebounds and 4 assists.
A year after Drexel pulled off the greatest comeback in Division I history against Delaware, there was almost (almost almost) a reprise. After a three-point play gave the Blue Hens a 13-point lead with 136 seconds left, the KenPom.com odds of Delaware winning stood at 99.6 percent. Yet the Blue Hens needed two free throws with 11 seconds left to push a two-point lead to four, rendering a final Drexel three-pointer meaningless in the 76-75 Delaware victory.
So, more progress for the Dragons? Refer to Martelli’s comments above. They apply to other teams, too.
La Salle had the weekend off after making 14 of 26 three-pointers Wednesday to beat Fordham. Let’s note that over La Salle’s last eight games, Saul Phiri has made 11 of 22 threes in the four games the Explorers won, and 5 of 18 in the four games they lost.
Phiri did make 3 of 6 threes in a loss to Rhode Island and 0 of 6 in a win over Towson. But that makes the other numbers even starker: 11-for-16 in the other three W’s, 2-for-12 in the other three L’s. True X-factor numbers.