Villanova squared off against the unlikely conference leader, the DePaul Blue Demons. Entering today, DePaul was the lone undefeated team in conference play. With a 3-0 record versus Big East opponents, DePaul sat atop the conference in first place.
DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell was looking forward to this game, it would be a great gauge for where his team stood. There was still some work to be done for the Blue Demons.
Billy Garrett Jr. sank the Blue Devils’ first few points. The Wildcats answered back, before kicking it into high gear. Villanova’s defense was suffocating and constantly frustrating DePaul. The Wildcats forced 10 turnovers in the first half alone. It helped them on the other end of the court, as crisp ball movement led to great shot opportunities. A 13-0 run helped Villanova to a 16-5 start. The Wildcats were pouring it on from long range, as DePaul struggled to find an answer. In the first half, Villanova shot an impressive 7-for-12 from beyond the arc.
The answer finally came with 11:05 left in the first half. Aaron Simpson made a layup to break DePaul’s dry spell, but it wouldn’t be enough. Villanova continued to be relentless at both ends of the court. After inbounding the ball, a quick steal by Darrun Hilliard led to an easy dunk. A few moments later, another steal resulted in a rim rattling dunk by Daniel Ochefu. The Blue Devils were drifting further and further away from the game. Their effort grew more abysmal and nonexistent by the minute. Villanova was laying out and diving for loose balls, while they stood idly by. In one such instance, Ryan Arcidiacono dove to cut off a pass. The ball bounced and rolled towards the other end of the court. Josh Hart and Billy Garrett Jr. were in pursuit. Just before the ball went out of bounds, Hart dove and sent it back in bounds. It deflected off of Garrett’s feet and out of play, the hustle gave Villanova possession. Even though it didn’t result in any points then, the hustle and determination was present in each and every Wildcat that took the floor. DePaul was ready to roll over as Villanova’s lead grew.
With 3:43 remaining, a Hilliard layup extended the Wildcats’ lead. They now had a 20 point edge over their opponents. Just before the half ended, Hart committed an ill-advised foul on Tommy Hamilton IV, who attempted a three point shot with just two seconds left on the clock. Hamilton IV sank all three free throws. It was assumed that Villanova would just inbound the ball, instead they ran a play. Hart sent a deep pass that went into the hands of Daniel Ochefu, who quickly got it out to a wide open Ryan Arcidiacono. Arcidiacono sank the mid-range jumper with ease. The Pavilion was ecstatic from the brilliant play. Villanova took a 45-24 lead into the break.
The second half was a little different. The Wildcats weren’t as hot on offense as they were in the first half, but they continued to play excellent defense. While they didn’t force as many turnovers, they held DePaul to a lower shooting percentage. The Blue Devils made 36.7% of their shots in the second half, as opposed to the 42.9% they accomplished in the first half. Villanova built on their lead the same way they did in the first half, three pointers and points in transition.
With 11:57 remaining, Darrun Hilliard knocked down a three point shot to push Villanova’s lead into the thirties. The Wildcats now boasted a 60-30 lead over the Blue Demons. However, it wouldn’t last for long, as DePaul began to string together a few baskets.
Darryl Reynolds checked in at the 8:36 mark. He would provide one of the second half highlight plays for Villanova. A few possessions later, JayVaughn Pinkston sent an alley-oop pass to the sophomore forward who went up and slammed it down. Villanova was in cruise control from then on, riding the momentum of their big lead.
Henry Lowe, Patrick Farrell, and Kevin Rafferty entered the game with just under four minutes to go. A quick 6-0 run for DePaul cut into Villanova’s lead, bringing it down to 16. Jay Wright pulled Farrell and Rafferty from the game, putting them back in a few minutes later. DePaul made the game a little more respectable in the second half, but the final score was not a true indicator of how the game was. Villanova won 81-64.
Darrun Hilliard had a game-high 21 points. The junior guard made four three-pointers and also had four steals. Ryan Arcidiacono had a solid all-around performance, chipping in 14 points and four assists. He was 5-for-6 overall and 4-for-5 from long range. Kris Jenkins had 10 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
For the Blue Demons, their bench seemed to outplay their starting lineup. Tommy Hamilton IV had a team-high 12 points. Darrick Wood had 10 points. Billy Garrett Jr. was kept in check, shooting 3-for-9 en route to a seven point, four turnover performance.
Villanova improves to 15-1 overall and 3-1 in conference play. Next up for the Wildcats is a meeting with the Xavier Musketeers at home on Wednesday night. Tip-off is at 9 p.m.