Temple’s Nate Pierre-Louis always draws the assignment of the opposing team’s toughest backcourt scorer, and in Wednesday’s 69-59 Big 5 loss at Villanova, he faced a typically tough assignment in Phil Booth.
Pierre-Louis did his part on both ends of the court, leading Temple with 19 points while helping to hold Booth to 9, but it wasn’t enough to beat the defending national champions.
While Booth is best known for scoring 20 points in the Wildcats' 77-74 NCAA championship win over North Carolina in 2016, he has enjoyed plenty of big moments since. The 6-foot-3 redshirt senior entered Wednesday’s game at Finneran Pavilion as the Wildcats' leading scorer (16.9 points per game). The 6-foot-4 Pierre-Louis gives opponents little room. He’s an in-your-face defender, and sometimes players can beat him off the dribble, as Booth did a few times. Most of the time, he’s a pure nuisance.
“It was one of the key matchups,” Pierre-Louis said of guarding Booth. “I am a really good defender, and I tried to make his life really hard.”
That was certainly the case.
“Pierre-Louis is a helluva of a defensive player,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said.
Temple trailed at the half, 24-23, and even though the Owls were just 1 for 7 from three-point range, they were right in what had become a half-court grind of a game, thanks to their work on the defensive end.
Pierre-Louis led the way. Booth shot just 2 for 6 in the first half, hitting 1 of 2 three-pointers, but he had trouble getting free for open looks.
On the other end, Pierre-Louis had 6 points on 3 for 6 shooting, although Booth was often guarding Shizz Alston.
For one possession early in the second half, Alston guarded Booth, but the next time down court, it was Pierre-Louis on him.
In the final two minutes, Pierre-Louis switched to guard Collin Gillespie, but Villanova had secured control by then.
During the second half, Booth didn’t even attempt a shot (which missed) until nearly seven minutes had elapsed. It would be his only field-goal attempt in the second half.
To Booth’s credit, he wasn’t forcing shots. On one second-half play, he tried taking Pierre-Louis inside, and the Temple defender wouldn’t budge. So Booth kicked it out to Jermaine Samuels, who hit a three-pointer that cut Temple’s lead to 43-41 with 9:17 left.
Villanova’s ability to win with Booth held in check and second-leading scorer Eric Paschall shooting 3 for 15 was a credit to the Wildcats' resiliency and depth.
Booth’s 9 points tied his season-low, but he turned the ball over just once.
Wright said Booth helped in other ways than scoring. “He did a good job defensively, stuck with what we did, got other people shots, and I thought it was a really mature leadership game for Phil Booth.”