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Villanova closes out DePaul 75-62

It was clear that these two teams were at opposite ends of the Big East standings as Jalen Brunson led the Wildcats to a 13 point win.

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at DePaul Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The offense kept the pace slow and the defense kept the score low as the Villanova Wildcats routed the DePaul Blue Demons 75-62 on Monday night. It was the second game in two days for the ‘Cats, and the second victory as part of the team’s three game road stretch.

It was the super sophomores Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges who stepped up to lead Villanova to a dominant victory. Brunson led the team with 18 points, adding 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and just 1 turnover as he kept the pace of the game in Villanova’s comfort zone all night. Bridges was key early, and continued his steady play throughout with 15 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 blocks.

Despite being held to just 7 points in the first 30 minutes, Josh Hart went on a scoring flurry at the end to finish with 16 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals. Kris Jenkins was the fourth Wildcat in double digits with 13 points, including 8 of 8 from the free throw line. He also led the team in rebounds with 8.

On defense, Villanova was beaten on the boards 32-38, but they were +3 in turnovers and made 10 more free throws than DePaul took. Nova forced 14 turnovers, half of which were steals, and held the Blue Demons to 37% shooting, including 30% from beyond the arc for the game.

In the first half, Villanova was equally efficient on offense and defense. All seven Wildcats that saw the court, including freshman Dylan Painter, scored at least one field goal. Four different ‘Cats were able to connect from deep as Nova went 50% beyond the arc and 52% from the floor. Most impressively, the team assisted on 9 of their 12 field goals. Jalen Brunson had 12 first half points, while Kris Jenkins and Mikal Bridges each added 9. On defense, Villanova struggled on the glass going -4 on the boards. However, they did force 9 first half turnovers and held DePaul to their fewest 1st half points of the season at 18.

Villanova completes its three game road trip on Saturday when they travel to New Jersey to take on Seton Hall.

Game Rundown

With the selection committee projecting Villanova as the #1 overall seed on Saturday, the top spot in the East Region and an NCAA Tournament path through MSG is Villanova’s to lose. Monday night, just two days after their first game of a three game road trip, Nova has to avoid tripping up against the bottom of the Big East. DePaul gave the ‘Cats a run for their money when the two faced off to open Big East play, with Villanova eeking out a three point win at the Pavilion.

It could be another close game on short rest and with a short bench after Darryl Reynolds was ruled out for a second straight game with a rib injury. Eric Paschall replaced him in the starting lineup for his third start of the season, joining Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, Jalen Brunson, and Mikal Bridges. If Jay Wright was to win his 501st game, he’d need to go a little deeper down the bench and get some playing time for true freshman Dylan Painter.

Villanova won the tip and scored on their first possession off some good passing and a corner three from Bridges. After the teams traded turnovers and missed threes, DePaul was finally able to drive the baseline after attacking the 1-2-2 press. Jenkins responded with a three after a Bridges offensive rebound, and the Nova lead was up to 4 with 16:45 remaining in the half.

Jalen Brunson got to the line and converted both free throws. After the second made free throw, Dylan Painter entered the game and grabbed a defensive rebound on his first possession. Kris Jenkins hit a two to get Nova to double digits, but DePaul answered with a three as the shot clock expired. After trading turnovers, the game went to the first media timeout with Nova leading 10-4 and 15:01 remaining in the first half.

While Dylan Painter seemed serviceable on defense, he continued to look lost on offense without the ball. He was out of position when shots were going up, and Hart had a turnover while trying to force a pass to him to get Painter involved. But when he got the ball, he knew what to do with it, hitting a 15 footer from the baseline. DePaul answered with a three, and then after forcing a shot clock violation got an easy layup to cut the lead to 3. But the reigning Big East player of the year, Josh Hart, answered with a three to push the lead back up to six. Brunson got a steal and Bridges got to the line, going 1-2. The Bridges got his own steal and finished at the rim, and just like that the Nova lead was 9 with 12:38 remaining in the 1st, the score 18-9.

DePaul missed two threes out of the commercial break. After a second quick commercial, Jenkins missed a three. Nova was able to force a contested three on defense, and so the Wildcats had a second chance at grabbing their first double digit lead of the night. But after a quick Villanova turnover, Josh Hart picked up his second foul with more than 10 minutes left in the first half and would come out of the game. DePaul would go 1-2 from the line, cutting Nova’s lead to 8.

Jalen Brunson drove the lane for an easy lay-up and a 10 point Wildcat lead. After a DePaul miss and a Kris Jenkins foul on a shot fake, Bridges hit a big three to push the lead to 13. Brunson came out for Painter, who was seeing by far the most minutes he had yet in a first half this season. His size still couldn’t keep DePaul off the offensive glass, but the Demons still couldn’t find their stroke from beyond the arc to take advantage. DePaul eventually hit a runner in the lane, but the ‘Cats were very much in control of this one leading 23-12 with 7:26 remaining in the first half.

Out of the break, Brunson found a cutting DiVincenzo for a reverse layup and the lead was back up to 13. With just under 7 minutes remaining, Josh Hart came back in the game. The two teams would trade missed threes, two by Bridges, before Donte DiVincenzo picked up his 2nd foul of the first half and went to the bench. Brunson would miss a jumper in the lane on offense, but made up for it by drawing a charge on the defensive end. Brunson completed his effort by sinking a corner three back on offense to push Nova’s lead to 16 with just under 5 minutes remaining.

At this point, Villanova had 7 assists on its 10 field goals, including five threes. Meanwhile the defense had held DePaul to just 5-19 through the first 15 minutes. Nova continued to pour it on with a monster dunk by Paschall, giving all seven Wildcats that saw the floor at least one field goal. Brunson continued to poor it on as he hit another three to make it 10 points in the first half. With 2:26 remaining, Villanova had blown this one wide open, more than doubling DePaul’s score at 33-16.

Out of the last media timeout, DePaul missed yet another three, but in the run out on the other end DiVincenzo was blocked. Painter ripped down the next DePaul missed, and this time Jenkins was able to get to the line for a 1-and-1 opportunity. He would make both to give Nova their largest lead of the night at 19. After DePaul’s 9th turnover of the half, Kris Jenkins again found himself at the line, and again hit both free throws. Dylan Painter was called for a travel after going to the ground for a rebound, giving DePaul a chance at the last shot of the half. They made their shot with six seconds left, and that was too much time as Brunson was able to push and draw the foul. He would make both free throws to send Villanova to the locker room with a 39-18 lead.

Out of the timeout, Villanova was back to applying pressure on defense and winning most if not all of the 50-50 balls. Then DePaul’s Billy Garret picked up his third foul by hitting Brunson on a missed three and sending him to the line. He would make all three free throws, now 7-7 on the night. After a Bridges rejection on defense, DePaul returned the favor by stuffing Eric Paschal before committing their 10th turnover of the game. Brunson wasn’t able to convert offensively, but came up with the rebound on the defensive end.

After both teams came up empty on multiple possessions, Hart came up with a steal and an And1 on the other end for a chance at a three point play with just over 16 minutes left. Hart missed the free throw, but DePaul couldn’t convert on their end. The Demons were still scoreless more than four minutes into the second half as the game went into the media timeout.

Jenkins missed his shot out of the timeout, and DePaul finally hit a three from deep, just their second of the night. Donte DiVincenzo was fouled, making both from the line. Hart then came up with a steal, but the Wildcats weren’t able to convert. With just under 14 minutes to play in the game, Nova still held a comfortable 25 point lead.

After both teams missed mid rang jumpers, Mikal Bridges got free on the baseline for a one handed slam giving him double digit scoring for the fourth consecutive game. DePaul would answer at the line going 1-2, but then fouled DiVincenzo has he drove the lane. The Big Ragu would miss both free throws, and DePaul took advantage with a layup on the other end to cut the Wildcat lead to 24.

Dylan Painter came back into the game and grabbed an offensive rebound off a Josh Hart miss, drawing a foul in the process. DePaul would get to the free throw line for two after a Nova miss, and then follow Nova’s next miss with a put back layup to go on a 7-0 lead with lust under 11 minutes remaining. Jalen Brunson missed the front end of a 1-and-1, and DePaul hit a three to extend their run to 10-0. Kris Jenkins finally ended the run with a head fake to draw a foul and hit both his free throws, but DePaul answered with an alley-oop on the offensive end. Nova led by just 17 now with under 10 minutes to play.

Bridges ran out after a DePaul miss for a transition layup to push Nova’s lead back to 19, but again DePaul worked the ball inside for two points. After both teams missed floaters in the lane, it was Hart who got away in transition for the easy lay in. Hart had just 7 points for the game after some foul trouble to this point, shooting 50% from the floor on 6 attempts.

Out of the break, DePaul would miss two free throws before committing a foul themselves to send Jenkins to the line on the other end. Jenkins went 2-2, giving him 8-8 on the night and pushing the Nova lead back up over 20. Then Bridges would take a long inbound from Jenkins for an easy dunk in transition. After a DePaul score, Eric Paschal would get an easy bucket to give Nova 60 points on the night and a 60-39 lead.

Nova continued to control the pace of play and the score as they went down the stretch. DePaul started to keep pace with Nova’s scoring, but they couldn’t make any kind of serious run as time ran down in the final minutes. At the 4:15 mark, Eric Paschal was fouled hard and went crashing to the ground. But Nova’s acting big man was able to walk it off and went 1-2 on the ensuing free throws to keep Nova’s lead at 20 points. He’d even come back the very next offensive possession diving for a loose ball, which of course he won.

In the final minutes, the teams traded threes and Josh Hart went on a late scoring flourish, but the Wildcat victory was already a foregone conclusion. Despite a late push by DePaul, Villanova won comfortably 75-62.