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DePaul folds again in defeat to Villanova

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The Blue Demons had a lead... until they didn’t.

NCAA Basketball: DePaul at Villanova Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

You can look at this game through two different lenses.

On one hand, the Villanova Wildcats avoided disaster and rallied to defeat the DePaul Blue Demons, 73-68.

On the other hand, the DePaul Blue Demons COULDN’T avoid disaster, and crumbled again in the final minutes and lost to the Villanova Wildcats, 73-68.

Choose your own.

DePaul held a 14-point lead at the 10:22 mark of the first half. A 3-pointer by Eli Cain put the Blue Demons up 30-16 as the Finneran Pavilion crowd could only watch on in astonishment and befuddlement. That would be the largest lead DePaul would hold, but it would take a lot of digging by Villanova to get out of the deficit they put themselves in.

They certainly made a break for it as they closed to within two after an 18-4 run. But a turnaround J by Femi Olujobi with 44 seconds left put DePaul’s lead up to four, and that would be where we were by the end of the half.

As the second half waned on, things began to unravel. DePaul got the lead up to nine following a Paul Reed dunk at the 18:21 mark. They promptly pushed it up to 11 after a jumper by Reed one minute later. But a 3-pointer by Eric Paschall began to turn the tide. ‘Nova inched to within five but, to his credit, Max Strus stopped the bleeding with a bucket to make it 49-42. The Blue Demons were able to have it up to 53-45 after two free throws by Strus, and then to five after another bucket by Strus — a 3-pointer at the 9:25 mark.

DePaul couldn’t keep the lid shut on Villanova afterwards, though. The Wildcats got the lead after a huge 3-pointer by Phil Booth at 7:58. From there on, Villanova wouldn’t relinquish their advantage. DePaul tried to wrestle it away, coming to as close as one point, but they couldn’t get ahead of them after that bucket by Booth.

The aforementioned booth had 15 points on the night, tied with Saddiq Bey in that department. But it was Paschall who led the way with 24 points, the most on both sides. Paschall also led in rebounds with six, while Booth had six assists, a high for both sides.

DePaul got four players in double figures in the loss. Cain and Strus led with 16 apiece, and Strus was also the team-leader in rebounds with eight. Devin Gage and Femi Olujobi had 10 and 12 respectively, and Gage led with five assists.

Up next for these two teams are two stiff tests. DePaul will face the Seton Hall Pirates at home on Sunday, while Villanova travels to Friartown to face the Providence Friars.