Lead by a trio of Gillespie, Bey, and Samuels, Villanova was able to survive after being down by 10 for much of the early parts to this game. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl dominated on the glass with 13 rebounds, Gillespie and Bey lead the scoring with 21 and 18 respectively, and Jermaine Samuels came through with 15 and lead a run towards the end of the first half that probably saved the game for the Wildcats. There is a lot to improve as far as situational basketball, but the good news is that they pulled out yet another win.
The Wildcats are off until Saturday when they take on UConn at the Wells Fargo Center for a noon time tip-off.
DePaul came into this game sitting 12-4 overall but winless in Big East play so far this season and dead last in the conference standings. In the past, the Blue Demons have given the Wildcats a few scares, but their last win came while George Bush was still in the White House on January 3, 2008. They have lost 18 straight to Villanova and the ‘Cats are looking to keep it that way.
Jay opened the game with a starting lineup of Gillespie, Swider, Samuels, JRE, and Bey while DePaul opened with a smaller lineup of Coleman-Lands, Moore, Weems, Butz, and Reed. After loosing the tip, Depaul went straight at Samuels with Butz’s height advantage. Their first possession didn’t inspire any confidence after a turnover lead to an easy bucket, but a 3 by Bey quickly changed the mood of the building. A great defensive stand and a pro level dribble-drive by JRE found Nova up 5-4 early. After Moore got Bey to fly by on a block attempt, DePaul lead 8-5 as Villanova kept bricking 3’s. With just under 16 minutes to go, it looked like DePaul’s gameplan was already at the forefront - press up defensively, move the ball inside on offense, using their big men to bully themselves inside.
With the Blue Demons on an 8-0 run, Villanova turned to Moore to make something happen, but he ended up playing provider to Bey who brought the game to 12-8. Some more great play inside brought the lead for DePaul up to 8 as Villanova could not contain Reed on the glass. After a Moore 3 (DePaul’s Moore), the lead ballooned to 11 and the Nova nation was getting more and more frustrated, worrying that the game would get out of control.
Jay Wright called a well timed timeout to try and stop the bleeding, and it looked good as Villanova got Swider an open 3 to bring the lead back to 10. After some bad offense from both sides, Samuels was able to use his inspector-gadget-like arms to hurdle defenders for a putback. Then, a JRE block that sent the ball into the 4th row and brought the game to the under 8 timeout.
And 50 basketball seconds later, all that good work seemed to be lost as their offense sputtered and their defense was nowhere to be found, leading to an 11 point lead by DePaul. Samuels bailed the ‘Cats out at the shot-clock buzzer with an and-1 that’s sure to make the SportsCenter top 10, Villanova now trailed by 8. Next Villanova possession Samuels again broke out his inspector-gadget arm and almost ended a few DePaul players’ careers but got fouled to prevent the dunk. With Villanova’s defense one step behind on the next possession, Moore drilled a 3 again to bring the lead back to 10. It seemed like every time the Wildcats worked the lead down they made a string of mistakes to lose their progress. They especially had problems containing Charlie Moore, who kept DePaul +14 while he was on the floor.
Some Gillespie heroics cut the lead to 5 within a minute of playing time, and a few bad turnovers by DePaul before a Gillespie bucket off a “loop” play cut the lead to 2 with a minute and a half to go. Samuels Then stood in and took a brilliant charge. At this point those two were taking over scoring Villanova’s last 14 points. An elite post move by Bey then put the Wildcats up 2 with 24 seconds to play as the Blue Demons couldn’t handle his drop-step. The half ends with JRE denying Butz’s shot with authority and sends the ‘Cats into the locker-room up 30-28. At this point Nova is shooting 31% but with the lead it shows how well they are managing the game.
DePaul opened the half clearly with the 12-0 run by Nova still on their mind as they forced up a bad shot and allowed Samuels to get an easy turnover, but the ‘Cats couldn’t convert on any of these chances. After a scramble the Blue Demons evened up the score, but Samuels was able to man-handle DePaul in the post, which is new to me and I think DePaul as it looked like they were caught off-guard. From the looks of it, there must’ve been a conversation in the locker-room about fronting and pressing high on defense because the ‘Cats were getting up in their grill to open the half. After trading on buckets, the Wildcats got a lead growing as they were up 40-34 with just over 16 to go.
DePaul came out of the second half’s first media timeout going back to what worked for them at the beginning of the game, pound the ball inside, and it worked as they evened the game up at 40 a piece. The second half looked like it was going to be a dog fight as Bey and Charlie Moore traded 3’s. A three by Gillespie and an elbowing offensive foul on Ongenda leading to a Samuels layup felt like there would finally be some momentum going in the right direction with the ‘Cats up 48-43.
Some nice ball movement got JRE a nice look and just as you thought Villanova might get some breathing room, Reed got the ball inside for an easy layup yet again. However, their offense seemed to be moving as they kept a good pass and move rhythm to open up Swider and JRE for some easy buckets. They also seemed to finally catch on to those entry passes by DePaul and are using Samuels and JRE to grab them before the Blue Demons’ big men can hurt them down low.
With just under 8 to go, Nova turned to their patented 1-2-2 Viking press but DePaul seemed ready for it as they got an open dunk after catching Villanova in rotation. Another open dunk off a turnover and what was once a 9 point lead quickly evaporated to a 5 point lead. Some nice work earned Bey a dunk and 9 putting them back up to a 10 point lead got the crowd feeling a little more settled. With 4 to go, Villanova lead 61-49 and looked like they finally knew what they were doing offensively.
After the media timeout it looked like DePaul was prepared to go all out with a full court press that made Villanova take a timeout. The two teams then exchanged threes as the lead was cut to 10. The press gave Villanova more problems but ultimately they were able to break it, but a whole 2 minutes of this was going to be a challenge for this Nova squad. Not to mention that Charlie Moore broke JRE’s ankles then got a jump ball for DePaul the next possession. The full court pressure now gave the Blue Demons the ball back with a 2 possession lead to overcome. A foolish pass lead to a dunk by Reed, Villanova up by 4. Gillespie drew a foul after the ‘Cats broke the press successfully this time, but only made one putting them up by 5. 31.5 left on the clock and Coleman-Lands sunk a 3, ‘Nova by 2. JRE threw the ball away and now DePaul had the ball to take the last shot with 27.5 seconds left and down by 2. Charlie Moore got the layup to fall with 8.5 left to tie the game and the shot by Bey on the other end missed big time to give us free basketball.
Overtime starts and DePaul won the tip, but Butz ran right into JRE to caugh up the ball, leading to Gillespie getting to the line and put Nova up 2. After a forced shot by Charlie Moore, Gillespie got back to the line on the other end to put the ‘Cats up 4, drawing his 7th foul of the night. A great stop by DePaul got Charlie Moore loose yet again for a layup, but Bey put the lead back up to 4 with a bucket of his own. A Coleman-Lands 3 put the Blue Demons within 1 at the 2 minute mark of overtime. A nice drive by Samuels got the lead up to 3, but a bad foul by Swider got Charlie Moore to the line. Thankfully, he missed the front end of a 1 and 1. 50.7 to go and Nova up by 3, another bad giveaway lead to a DePaul breakaway. The shot was poorly taken and got Nova the ball back. A missed shot put Charlie Moore on the breakaway and Bey smartly fouled on the floor, giving Moore a 1 and 1 with 6 seconds to go. 75-74, DePaul calls a timeout to set up their defense. Gillespie got fouled with 3.3 to go and goes to the line for 2 and made both. Nova up by 3 and Bey fouls again to put Moore on the line for 2, smartly limiting a potential game tying shot. After making the first, Moore tried to miss the second, but Samuels got the rebound to end the game. Final score 79-75
Yes, Villanova won the game, but there’s so much to improve on with this game. The late game turnovers were unacceptable, they shot terribly (43.1% from the field), and they could not inbound the ball to save their lives in the final few minutes. This is a quality DePaul team that has many good players and were clearly very well coached, but with the talent that Villanova has out on the floor, they should not need a Samuels and Gillespie takeover like we just saw to scratch out a win in overtime. The good news is that they can win on an off shooting night, but come March, they need to be able to put tough opponents away, or at least not allow these early leads that they have to crawl out of.