Chicago may have experienced single digit icy temperatures tonight, but Villanova set Wintrust Arena ablaze with shooting heat, defeating DePaul 103-85.
In their first Big East conference game of the season, Villanova applied pressure quickly and forcefully. If anyone had poised that facing DePaul would be akin to yet another nonconference for the Wildcats, ‘Nova’s early efforts proved that they weren’t paying attention.
Holding DePaul to single digits for the opening eight minutes of the game, Villanova swiftly established their strategy of relying on multiple players for shooting impact. Coach Jay Wright gave freshmen early game time, which they eagerly consumed.
DePaul, determined to keep the first half competitive, found their shooting groove to chip away Villanova’s lead. Lead by Marin Maric, the Blue Demons solidified their points in the paint and doubled Villanova’s offensive rebounds 12-5 by halftime.
Unfortunately for DePaul, Villanova unleashed their shooting capacity with full conviction from all angles in the second half. Tapping into their resources on the bench, ‘Nova extended their shooting depth from beyond the starting roster. In a window display of versatility that would render Fifth Avenue jealous, seven Wildcats ended the game in double digits.
Mikal Bridges topped ‘Nova’s shooting with 20 points, with fellow juniors Phil Booth (17 points) and Jalen Brunson (16 points) closely behind. Bridges and Brunson both shot 50 percent of their field goals, while Booth averaged 66.6 percent of his field goals and three-pointers.
Max Strus refused to close the curtains on DePaul, leading the Blue Demons with 20 points and nine rebounds. While DePaul remained relatively comparable in field goal shooting against Villanova (41% of FGs compared to ‘Nova’s 54%), Villanova decidedly outperformed the Blue Demons in three-pointers (48% of 3FGs compared to DePaul’s 26% of 3FGs). To credit DePaul’s grit, the Blue Demons out-rebounded the Wildcats 50-32.
Both teams continue their Big East conference play this Saturday, December 30. Villanova (now 13-0 overall) will face Butler in Indianapolis, and DePaul (7-6) will meet Xavier in Cincinnati.