PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Phil Booth returned to Villanova’s lineup, and it looked as if he never left.
Booth had 14 points in his comeback from a broken right hand that sidelined him for seven games, and Mikal Bridges scored 27 points to lead No. 3 Villanova to a 93-62 victory over DePaul on Wednesday night.
Eric Paschall had 16 points, and Jalen Brunson added 11 points and seven assists to help the Wildcats (25-3, 12-3 Big East) beat DePaul for the 16th straight time.
Booth played 16 minutes, going 4 for 6 from the field and 2 for 4 from. He was injured Jan. 23 against Providence, had his cast removed Friday and practiced Tuesday.
Wildcats coach Jay Wright was pleasantly surprised at Booth’s speedy recovery — and his play.
“It’s great to have him back,” Wright said about Booth, who entered averaging 11.6 points. “It’s a tribute to him. It looked like he never had anything wrong at practice. He looked good tonight, completely fine. It just amazes me.”
Booth entered 2:53 into the contest and made his presence felt, scoring eight points in eight minutes to help the Wildcats to their 16-point halftime lead.
“It felt good to be back out there,” Booth said. “A little rust but I wasn’t worried about offense. My hand felt great.”
Max Strus scored 21 points for the Blue Demons (10-17, 3-12).
The Wildcats had a comfortable 46-30 lead at the break. They surged to a 27-point advantage with 17:47 left in the contest by scoring 13 of the first 15 second-half points over 2:13. Bridges capped the run with a 3-pointer that made it 59-32 and practically erased any chances of a DePaul comeback.
“Our hands were down, we were late to a couple of rotations,” Blue Demons coach Dave Leitao said of the Villanova spurt.
Leitao said the Wildcats have so many offensive options, and adding Booth makes it even harder to defend them.
“They are back to being whole,” he said.
The game was tied at 16 after a Strus 3-pointer with 11:09 left in the half, but the Wildcats slowly and methodically pulled away.
Bridges had 15 points and Paschall added nine in the opening 20 minutes. Villanova was 10 for 14 from the free-throw line while the Blue Demons didn’t attempt a foul shot. For the game, the Wildcats finished 15 for 21 from the line while DePaul was 0 for 1.
DePaul: The Blue Demons need a victory in one of their three remaining games to reach four conference wins, which would be their most since joining the Big East.
Villanova: The four-time defending Big East champion Wildcats also have three regular-season games remaining. They are tied for first place with Xavier but own the tiebreaker with the Musketeers after beating them twice, including Saturday’s 95-79 win at No. 4 Xavier.
Wright recorded his 411th win at Villanova to close within two victories of tying Alexander Severance for first place in all-time coaching victories. In his 17th season at Villanova, Wright improved to 17-2 against DePaul.
The Wildcats have won 26 of the 34 matchups, with DePaul’s last win coming Jan. 3, 2008. Villanova won at DePaul 103-85 on Dec. 27 in the other contest of this season’s two-game series.
STRUS FOR 3
Strus made three 3-pointers, finishing 3 for 9, to up his single-season total to 74 and pass Quentin Richardson for second-most in a season. Drake Diener, with 85 in the 2004-05 season, tops the list.
DePaul: Host Marquette on Saturday.
Villanova: At Creighton on Saturday.