It was a new feeling for Villanova entering Tuesday night.
The Wildcats had never played a game as the No. 1 team in both the AP and Coaches’ Polls, and they hadn’t faced off against this year’s DePaul team yet.
All of that was set to change with tip-off on Tuesday, but the results remained the same. Villanova rolled past host DePaul in convincing fashion, beating the Blue Demons 86-59.
Josh Hart only needed 15 to reach 1,000 career points. He was able to reach it and add a few more. The junior guard finished with a game-high 18 points. He found much success attacking the basket and pulling up from the perimeter.
He helped Villanova get off to a quick 16-2 lead that helped set the tone for the rest of the game.
The Wildcats went wire-to-wire, holding the lead every single second of the game. However, there were a few instances where DePaul didn’t make it easy.
The Blue Demons started to find a rhythm late in the first half, going on a quick 7-0 run to help cut the lead to 32-24 with 3:43 remaining.
Villanova head coach Jay Wright had enough of the lapses on defense, calling time out to get his team refocused. It was what the Wildcats needed, as they began to get themselves together.
Mikal Bridges got a last-second layup to fall in, giving Villanova a 41-29 lead at the half.
In the second half, the Wildcats long range attack helped them pull away for good. Three straight 3-pointers, including two from Kris Jenkins, sparked a 15-0 run to begin the half.
Tommy Hamilton IV got a three of his own to fall to finally put an end to the run, but by then Villanova had already built its lead into the twenties. The lead became too great for DePaul to overcome.
A stingy defensive effort hindered the Blue Demons from being able to get back into the game. Villanova forced them to turn the ball over 19 times.
The Wildcats coasted to the final buzzer, as everyone got a piece of the action in Tuesday night’s game.
The win marked the senior class’ 103rd victory at Villanova, officially making them the winningest class in program history. The Class of 2016 eclipsed a previous record set by the Class of 2009.
It was also Daniel Ochefu‘s first game back into Villanova’s starting lineup after missing the last few games with a concussion. Ochefu didn’t miss a beat, scoring 12 points and grabbing six boards in 24 minutes of action.
He assisted Villanova’s imposing presence inside. DePaul didn’t seem to have an answer for the Wildcats’ interior attack. Villanova held a 36-16 advantage for points in the paint.
Darryl Reynolds had another solid performance, this time from coming off the bench. He chipped in 14 points and six boards. He even added a couple of rim-rattling dunks.
Kris Jenkins had 13 points and six rebounds. Jalen Brunson, an Illinois native, finished with 11 points, three rebounds, and four assists in his homecoming.
For DePaul, most of its veterans were limited on Tuesday night. Myke Henry almost had a double-double, with nine points and 11 rebounds. However, he shot a mediocre 3-of-12 on the floor.
It would be freshman Eli Cain who would lead DePaul, scoring a team-high 15 points. He was the lone player to score in double figures.
Villanova improves to 21-3 overall, and 11-1 in Big East play. The Wildcats will return back to Philadelphia for a game against St. John’s at the Wells Fargo Center, tip-off is at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday night.