In a stunning introduction to Big East conference play for the season, Villanova scraped past DePaul 68-65.
Yes, “scraped.” Yes, against DePaul, who came into this game at 7-6.
Widely predicted to be a strong win for the Wildcats, DePaul entered the Pavilion with an incredibly specific agenda: #DISMISSTHEHATERS.
The first half was marred by poor shooting by the Wildcats and DePaul, though not precision shooters themselves, managed to keep a steady pace behind ‘Nova. The final 10 minutes of the second half, however, revealed a vicious side of the Blue Demons. Unafraid to take big shots, and playing with a consistently building pressure, they rushed to the bucket with success.
For Villanova, Josh Hart flaunted his value. Topping the Wildcats’ scoring effort with a whopping 25 points, Hart played all over the court with robust energy. To put his impact in perspective, ‘Nova’s next closest scorers were Jalen Brunson (13 points) and Kris Jenkins (12 points).
Though not a major scoreboard presence for the Wildcats, Mikal Bridges flexed his influence underneath the basket. In the intense final moments of the closely-tied second half, Bridges had a forceful block against Billy Garrett, ensuring much-needed momentum for ‘Nova.
DePaul, however, managed to produce more equality among their scoring spread. Tre’Darius McCallum lead the Blue Demons with 19 points, while Billy Garrett (17 points) and Eli Cain (14 points) followed closely behind. Garrett in particular was critical in DePaul’s second half comeback, making crucial baskets to force the Blue Demon lead.
To add further clarity to DePaul’s triumphant effort, Villanova gave up 14 turnovers—the second-most of their season. In contrast, the Blue Demons only had seven and they were far more effective in capitalizing on points off of turnovers. They further edged out ‘Nova in offensive rebounds, nailing eight compared to their four.
Lagging behind their favored 3-pointers, Villanova was 30.8 percent in 3FGs, but nailing 50 percent of field goals kept the Wildcat offense alive. DePaul had an even more dismal three-pointer rate (17.6 percent), but managed to stay slightly on keel with ‘Nova in field goals by scoring 43.1 percent of them.
Ultimately, the Wildcats’ coolness in free-throw shooting under pressure solidified their victory, in addition to a fantastically well-timed Hart 3-pointer within the final seconds.
The Wildcats improve to 13-0, and meet unbeaten Creighton next on the road this Saturday.