NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Playing with a young team, Villanova coach Jay Wright has discovered that even winning can be a learning experience for the No. 20 Wildcats.
The days of Phil Booth and Eric Paschall stepping up in crunch time for the Wildcats ended when their college careers concluded last season.
The new kids have to step up and, fortunately, a lot of guys are carrying the load.
Jermaine Samuels scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half and Villanova won its season-high fourth straight game by getting double-digit performances by five players to hold off Delaware 78-70 on Saturday in the Never Forget Tribute Classic at the Prudential Center.
“It does boost their morale," Wright said of sharing the scoring load. “Guys like to score. That's one of the things we like to teach a young team — don't evaluate yourselves on whether you score. So when five guys score they're all happy. Guys like to score. It's a normal human characteristic. They're feeling good right now. "
Justin Moore came off the bench to score 16, Saddiq Bey had 13, Cole Swider 12 and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl 10 as the Wildcats (8-2) beat the Blue Hens (9-2) for the 15th straight time.
Nate Darling scored 29 points for Delaware, which has lost two straight after setting a school record by starting the season with nine consecutive wins for coach Martin Ingelsby. Kevin Anderson added 14 points, while Justyn Mutts had eight points and 11 rebounds.
“We had epic battles when Mike Brey was there," Wright of the former Delaware coach who is now at Notre Dame. “I always remember those games. They're really intelligent defensively, to Martin's credit."
Darling, who was 10 of 19 from the field, hit a long 3-pointer with 13:15 left the game to get the Blue Hens to within 47-46 and give the Wildcats and Wright some concern.
Moore hit two free throws on the Wildcats' next possession and Collin Gillespie, who had an off game with seven points, hit a 3-pointer to push the advantage to 52-46.
Delaware never got closer than three the rest of the way as the Wildcats opened a 10-point lead in the final minutes.
“Ï do think we played well on a big stage," Ingelsby said. “We went for it. We were fearless. A testament to Villanova, they made winning plays and their free throws. I thought when we had it to three points we could put a little game pressure on them and get it tied or take the lead, and they made some plays. We could never get it to a one- or two-point game.”
Villanova hit 9 of its first 12 shots in building a 22-10 lead less than seven minutes in. The Wildcats made only six baskets the rest of the half, taking a 37-32 lead. Most of their shots were from the outside and they never got to the free-throw line.
Darling and Anderson kept the Blue Hens close, scoring 11 and nine points, respectively.
In the opening game of the doubleheader at the Prudential Center, Mississippi State rallied late to beat Kansas State 67-61.
Delaware: The Blue Hens have one of their best teams and this was a shot at upsetting the Wildcats.
Villanova: The Wildcats find ways to win. In this one, they pushed the ball inside in the second half to break it open.
Ingelsby is the son of former Wildcats standout guard Tom Ingelsby. He played at the school from 1970-73, helping Villanova reach the NCAA title game in 1971. Former Wildcat Dylan Painter transferred to Delaware after last season and he is eligible to play his first game on Monday.
Delaware: Hosts Delaware State on Monday night.
Villanova: Hosts No. 2 Kansas on Saturday in a Big East-Big Ten matchup.