Sorry for the slight delay, WordPress was acting up again and I think I was able to finally resolve the issues for good. This was submitted to Villanova’s campus newspaper, “The Villanovan.” Due to the setbacks with publishing articles online and the issues with time, this will probably be the only time I do this for the sake of releasing the post. Recaps will be two separate pieces for “The Villanovan” and for “The Bench Mob”, instead of a duplicate post.
When these two teams met earlier this season, the Wildcats’ hot start paved the way to victory. Their dominant 45 point first half performance set the pace for the rest of the game. This time around, it was a strong second half that propelled Villanova to victory.
Villanova outscored DePaul 37-18 after halftime, rallying around Ryan Arcidiacono. The junior guard had all of his 18 points in the second half alone. The Wildcats went on to win 68-55.
“In the second half, I just tried to be more aggressive catching the ball and shooting,” said Ryan Arcidiacono. Once DePaul had to respect his jump shot, it opened up opportunities for him to drive to the basket. Arcidiacono got the Wildcats back into the game when he knocked down a three pointer to make it 41-40, with 15:25 remaining. He was fouled during the shot, and drained the subsequent free throw to tie the game. From there, Villanova never looked back.
Seniors JayVaughn Pinkston and Darrun Hilliard added solid performances. Pinkston finished with 14 points and five rebounds, while Hilliard chipped in 11 points and three steals. Daniel Ochefu did not light up the scoreboard, but made his presence known in other ways. The junior center had seven points and 12 boards.
It was clear that DePaul came into the game better prepared. The Blue Demons did not allow themselves to be beaten from long range again. Villanova was held to 5-of-19 shooting from beyond the arc. The Blue Demons paid close attention to perimeter, rapidly closing down on the Wildcats whenever someone received the ball. DePaul contested most of their shots, not giving away any easy looks. On the other end of the court, the Blue Demons found success attacking the basket and scoring in transition. DePaul came out with guns blazing. The Blue Demons connected on 10 of their first 15 shots, en route to a 26-17 lead. They played inspired basketball, taking a 37-31 lead at halftime.
The Blue Demons were paced by their star point guard, Billy Garrett Jr. He finished with 14 points and eight assists. Garrett Jr. was the only player for DePaul to score in double figures.
“In the second half, we settled down and focused on defense,” said JayVaughn Pinkston. The Wildcats clamped down on the Blue Demons. DePaul sank 6-of-20 (30.0%) shots in the second half, after shooting 52% in the first. Villanova took away opportunities in transition and gave a stronger effort when defending their opponents. As they kept points off the board on one end of the court, Ryan Arcidiacono began to heat up.
Arcidiacono scored eight of Villanova’s first ten points to start the second half, tying the game at 41 after completing the four point play. Moments later, in familiar Josh Hart fashion, he grabbed an offensive rebound and sank a layup to give Villanova the lead. It was the Wildcats’ first lead since they were up 9-8 with 14:28 remaining in the first half.
Villanova started to slowly pull away from DePaul, before the Blue Devils fought back. A three pointer by Tommy Hamilton IV made it 49-46 with 8:14 left in the game. However, that would be the closest that DePaul would ever get.
The Wildcats went on a 8-2 run, capped off by a vicious Daniel Ochefu dunk. Kris Jenkins fed the big man down low, who flushed it down for two points. Thanks to Ochefu’s dunk, Villanova had their first double digit lead of the game. The Wildcats now boasted a 58-48 lead with 5:29 left.
From that point on, Villanova cruised to the finish line. Ryan Arcidiacono added the final point of the game, making one of two foul shots in his final trip of the free throw line.
The Wildcats won the battle of the boards, outrebounding their opponents 35-18. Villanova grabbed 11 offensive rebounds, helping the Wildcats take a 16-0 edge in second chance points.
Unfortunately for DePaul, they did not have much time to rest before heading into this game. Their game against Providence was originally scheduled for Tuesday, before being postponed to Thursday due to inclement weather.
“They caught a tough break by having to travel and play on Thursday,” said Villanova head coach Jay Wright. “We were at home watching that game while they were playing. We were off and may have been fresher in the second half because of it.”
The Wildcats improve to 19-2 overall and 6-2 in conference play. Meanwhile, the DePaul Blue Demons fall to 11-12 and an even 5-5 Big East record.
Villanova will have a busy week ahead of them. The Wildcats will host Marquette this Wednesday night at 7 p.m. before a heavily anticipated rematch with Georgetown on Saturday. Both games will be held at the Wells Fargo Center.