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Wildcats hang triple digits on DePaul in Big East opener, win 103-85

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First conference game down for the 2017-18 season, many more to go.

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at DePaul Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

It was a case of deja vu for the Villanova Wildcats and DePaul Blue Demons.

Last season, the Wildcats opened up Big East play against the Blue Demons at home and came out with a win—albeit a nail-biter at the Pavilion.

This time around, Villanova came away with the victory once again, opening up its conference slate 1-0. However, there was very little doubt in this season’s matchup between Big East foes, as the Wildcats won in a comfortable 103-85 fashion.

Villanova burst out to a 17-5 lead to begin the game, with a series of three-pointers bookended by an Eric Paschall dunk from opening tip, and a basket from beyond the arc from Jermaine Samuels.

The Blue Demons struggled to get themselves going, but they would eventually get over their slow start.

DePaul started nailing its shots, following the lead of the Blue Demons’ transfers. Former Northern Illinois player and graduate transfer Marin Maric got things going from inside the paint, while Max Strus—from neighboring Lewis University in Chicago—got a couple of baskets.

The Blue Demons would trim the Wildcat lead down to seven, after a Maric layup made it 28-21 with 8:12 to go.

That would be the closest DePaul would get to catching the ‘Cats, as they started buckling down on both ends of the court to regain separation going into halftime.

Villanova led 48-33 at the break.

From there, it was more of the same for the ‘Cats. They were able to do almost whatever they wanted on offense—drive, pull up, dunk, alley oop, and sink threes. Villanova shot a combined 38-of-70 (54.3 percent) on the floor, including an impressive 15-of-31 (48.4 percent) from deep.

A number of different Wildcats contributed to the winning cause in a balanced effort.

Mikal Bridges scored a team-high 20 points in the wire-to-wire finish. Phil Booth had 17 points, including a 4-of-6 performance from long range. Paschall and Jalen Brunson chipped in 16 points each. Omari Spellman finished with a double-double, 12 points and 12 rebounds.

Meanwhile, Donte DiVincenzo and Samuels had nice games off the bench. DiVincenzo had 11 points. Samuels also had 11, doing so in 16 minutes of play and without missing a single shot or free throw.

The Wildcats were able to coast to the final buzzer, emptying their bench along the way.

Another hot start to begin the half allowed Villanova to push its lead to as high as 30, after a Bridges’ three-pointer made it 69-39 with 15:07 remaining in the game.

Although the game was never in doubt, the Blue Demons had a stretch in which it had an answer for almost every ‘Nova basket once they found their bearings, as they scored 52 points in the second half alone.

Strus scored 14 of his 20 points in the second half. He also had nine rebounds and six assists to complement his scoring numbers. Maric finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

‘Nova did a good job of quieting DePaul down from long range, holding the Blue Demons to shooting just 6-of-23 (26.1 percent) for the game.

However, DePaul was able to win the battle on the boards, outrebounding the ‘Cats, 50-32. Regardless, with a comfortable margin of victory and a 103-point performance, can’t worry too much.

With the win, Wildcats improve to 13-0 for the season and will continue their road trip, as they take on the Butler Bulldogs on Saturday. Tip-off is at 4 p.m.