You could see it on TV, you could hear it from Villanova fans, and Big East fans. Commercials and promos were in place since last week, advertising the Villanova-Creighton rematch. Major sports analysts, networks and outlets were looking forward to the game in anticipation. February 16 was certainly a date circled on Nova Nation’s calendar as soon as the first game ended that left Wells Fargo Center shocked and in silence. It was as if tonight’s game against DePaul was almost forgotten about and lost in the shuffle. Some thought it would be an easy surefire win, while others were calling for a trap game. Regardless, the Wildcats proved tonight that they did not forget about this game. It was business as usual.
DePaul came out fighting, R.J. Currington would make the first shot of the game from long range. After a Villanova basket, DePaul sank another three in thanks to Billy Garrett Jr. Villanova’s Darrun Hilliard would answer right back with a three of his own. James Bell would be sent to the line after attempting a three pointer and sink all three attempts. From there, the Wildcats took the lead, but DePaul was not ready to back down just yet. The Blue Demons hung tough, keeping it close. They played well on offense, taking smart shots and sinking them. On defense, they were pressing hard and their players were swarming all over the floor. Eventually Villanova would get separation with an 11-0 run that set the pace for the rest of the game. The run started with a Bell three pointer and also ended with a Dylan Ennis three pointer. JayVaughn Pinkston would sink a layup as time expired, giving the Wildcats a 48-31 lead.
In the second half, the Wildcats did not let up. Ryan Arcidiacono opened up the scoring with a mid range jumper. The Wildcats continued to play hard and did not allow themselves to give up the big lead that they put up in the first half. DePaul, who once came out with energy and excitement at the beginning of the game, looked like they were starting to run low on gas. Villanova kept pushing forward and was able to extend their lead into the twenties. The Wildcats were able to score in a variety of ways, but their three point shooting performance was fantastic. They lived up to coach Jay Wright’s motto, “Shoot ’em up, sleep in the streets.” As a team, Villanova sunk 15 three pointers off of 26 attempts. The Wildcats made 55.1% of their shots, much better than DePaul’s 37%.
Everyone on Villanova’s roster got a piece of the action tonight in the 87-62 victory. Five Wildcats put up double digit scoring performances. Hilliard led the Wildcats in scoring with 22 points. He set a new career high for three pointers in a game with five. He was 5 for 7 from beyond the arc tonight. Bell added 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists in the winning effort. He also had a pair of three pointers. Arcidiacono shot a perfect 4 for 4 from three point range en route to a 14 point and 6 assist performance. Pinkston finished with a double-double, he had 14 points and 11 rebounds. Kris Jenkins chipped in 11 points off of the bench. Jenkins was 3 for 4 from long range.
For DePaul, with Cleveland Melvin’s departure made official earlier in the week, the Blue Demons needed players to step up. Brandon Young was the heart and soul of the team tonight, and at times he outscored the rest of his squad. He finished with 27 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals.
The Wildcats head over to Omaha this Sunday for a game against the Creighton Bluejays. Tip-off is at 5 p.m.