Eric Paschall (above) and Villanova held off Marquette on Saturday night. (Photo: Tommy Smith/CoBL)
Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
As a freshman at Fordham in 2014-15, Eric Paschall had free rein on the offensive end.
The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 15.9 points per game and shot the ball more than 13 times per game on his way to winning Atlantic-10 Rookie of the Year.
When his Villanova career began last season, Paschall had no problem toning down his offensive game. He is averaging just more than eight points per game on fewer than six shot attempts per contest in 51 games with the Wildcats. He has attempted 10-or-more shots just four times since coming to Villanova, after doing so in all but three games at Fordham.
That’s why Villanova coach Jay Wright loves it when the junior has a night like Saturday night, when he tied a career-high with 19 points on 5-of-6 shooting in a 100-90 win against Marquette.
“I’m thrilled for him when he gets a game like that because he doesn’t care,” Wright said. “He’s been doing all the little things in every game. He’s a guy we want on the floor every second we can have him...He’s had less productive offensive games, and we’ve had him on the floor that long. He’s our guy, man. That’s what we want a Villanova basketball player to me.”
After a quiet four-game stretch in early December, including two games without made field goals, Paschall’s offense has come around as of late.
He went 5-for-8 from the field for a then season-high 16 points in a win against DePaul, then followed with 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting in the Wildcats’ loss to Butler on Dec. 30.
“I’m not doing anything differently,” Paschall said. “I’m just going out there and trying to play hard for my teammates and coaches. That’s all. I’m not changing anything. I’m just trying to play for them.”
Coming into this season, Paschall was a 30 percent shooter from 3-point range. No one would confuse him with a sharpshooter, but he had proved himself more than capable of knocking down the long ball.
He started the 2017-18 campaign just 1-for-25 from 3-point range in Villanova’s first 13 games. He knocked down his first three in nine games against Butler on Dec. 30 and followed by going 3-for-3 from deep in Villanova’s win on Saturday.
Paschall said his short luck from outside was never at the front of his mind.
“It was the last thing I’m worried about on the court,” the junior forward said. “I’ve been working at it. Coach has been telling me to just keep working at it during my time at school. The only thing I really thought about was just shoot it. I don’t really think about it out there.”
Even when his offensive game has struggled, Paschall has found other ways to contribute.
The junior does a little bit of everything for the Wildcats. He has at least two rebounds in every game this season. He as an assist in all but three games, a steal in all but five and has recorded at least one block in more than half the Wildcats’ games.
In addition to the high point total on Saturday, he had three rebounds, two blocks and a steal.
“He is the consummate Villanova basketball player,” Wright said. “It’s honest because when he was missing all those threes, it didn’t change his commitment to defense, rebounding, playing unselfishly. He didn’t try to prove he could get his threes. It was so impressive, his commitment to being a Villanova basketball player.”