After a week-plus of 'domination', the DePaul Blue Demons were playing as if possessed. Their new five-out style of offense was clicking, and they were winning, at the top of the conference with a 3-0 record. That all came crashing down for them on Saturday afternoon, as the 8th-ranked Villanova Wildcats crushed DePaul 81-64. Hilliard led all scorers with 21 points, and Ryan Arcidiacono added 14. Dylan Ennis led Villanova with seven assists, and Tommy Hamilton led DePaul with 12.
JayVaughn Pinkston guarded Billy Garrett Jr. to start the game, but Garrett thrived, creating an open jumper and nailing a deep tre for DePaul's first five points.
Josh Hart, Hilliard, and Arcidiacono had early 3-pointers to combat DePaul's opening buckets, and the 'Cats kept rolling from there. Using a 13-0 run, Villanova took a 16-5 lead barely eight minutes into the game. No one other than Garrett scored for the Blue Demons until Simpson finished a layup, ending a scoreless streak of nearly six minutes. Six different Wildcats scored out of the first seven baskets, as only Dylan Ennis and Pinkston were scoreless.
DePaul cut the lead to seven points, but Villanova went on yet another run, capped by strong defense and a few opportunistic dunks by Hilliard and Daniel Ochefu. The 'Cats started 10-18 from the field while the Demons opened just 4-13, and it soon became clear that the clock was closing in on midnight for DePaul.
After some back-and-forth in scoring, Arch took over and nailed two triples on back-to-back kick-outs from Ochefu in the post. Hilliard finished a layup strong in transition, and Kris Jenkins hit from outside, giving Villanova their largest lead of the game to that point at 37-14. Pinkston chipped in a couple layups under the basket, and then added the team's first made free throws of the half.
With two seconds left, Hart launched a baseball pass about 90 feet down the court to Ochefu, who found Arch on the baseline. Arch hit the mid-range jumper as the buzzer sounded, and the Wildcats coasted into halftime with a 45-24 lead.
At the half, Arch led the Wildcats in scoring with 11, and Hilliard was next with 10. Five different 'Novans had at least five points, and as a team they assisted on 14 of their 18 made baskets. Ennis led the team with five assists, and Ochefu and Arch each added three.
Villanova shot 62 percent from the field in the opening frame, and an astounding 58% from deep (7-12). DePaul committed 10 turnovers in the first half, and the 'Cats capitalized with 12 points in transition. They hit their last eight shots of the half.
The Demons continued their collapse into the second half, as Simpson grabbed a rebound and put it back just a minute into play, but went without a made field goal for a while. In the meantime, they committed five turnovers in their first eight possessions, Ennis scored his first points of the game, Arch hit another bomb from deep, and 'Nova ran away with more give-and-go layups in transition.
The lead stretched to 29 early on in the second half and hovered around 30 for a long time as Hilliard hit from beyond the arc and then finished a bucket on the run on the ensuing possession. "Bethlehem Steel" took charge in the second half and had 21 points with nine minutes to play.
Darryl Reynolds entered replacing Ochefu, who finished with just six points and four rebounds, both lows for him in conference play this season. The offense ran mostly through transition buckets and three-pointers so Chef wasn't as necessary today.
DePaul went on a mini 8-0 run before Reynolds got his first bucket of the game. Jenkins added a 3-ball and it then became more about cheering for the Bench Mob in the hopes that they'd enter the contest. They did, just after the under-4 media timeout. The Blue Demons went on a 12-0 run, prompting Wright to put Hart and Jenkins back in for insurance. A minute later, they re-entered.
"Maybe the second half of St. John’s and the first half here, yeah." -Wright, on this being their best half of the year.
"You can fall in love with the 3. You can always get em off, just not always good ones. That’s what we’re concentrating on, getting good ones. I thought Hart had a few good ones and he made an extra pass and the guy shooting wound up getting covered. It’s about recognizing open shots. It sounds easy but it’s tough." -Wright, on not only taking 3-pointers when they could have had them all day.
"I think that everyone in the conference is getting better, we’re playing each other twice a year, three times a year. It makes things scrappier and more competitive. I see the intensity rising, I see the level of play rising." -Wright, on conference realignment and the strength of the new Big East.