A win would’ve bolstered the holiday spirit, but Villanova seemed to really be in the giving mood.
The Wildcats filled up the basket, the box score, and had many more left over to stuff DePaul’s stockings.
The Wildcats nearly doubled up the Blue Demons, dominating on both ends of the court in Saturday’s 84-48 victory to close out 2023. It is the largest margin of victory to date for the Kyle Neptune era.
After a back-and-forth start to the game, Hakim Hart ignited a big 24-7 run by scoring three straight baskets to jumpstart a hot streak for the ‘Cats. Mark Armstrong would top off the run with a three-pointer, and the Wildcats could eventually take a 46-28 lead going into halftime.
It was the most the Wildcats scored in a single half since the Le Moyne game earlier in the year.
Villanova remained unrelenting in the second half. The Wildcats forced DePaul to miss 10 straight shot attempts, while they filled up on the other end of the court with another big run, a 26-4 stretch that covered 9:30 of game time.
The run gave the Wildcats their largest lead of the game, a 40-point gap. It looked like it would stay there, but DePaul managed to string a few baskets at the end as ‘Nova emptied the bench.
It was a complete performance for ‘Nova and a no-sweat win, after using a furious second-half rally to knock down Creighton in an earlier game to start its Midwest road trip.
As a team, the ‘Cats shot 30-of-56 (53.6%) and 12-of-22 (54.5%) from deep. They were consistent throughout, shooting more than 50% in each half.
DePaul had three double-digit scorers, but neither player seemed too impressive, as the ‘Cats made it difficult for them to get baskets. Even with the big lead, Villanova was hard-nosed in its approach and continued to hustle late in the second half.
DePaul shot just 17-of-56 (30.4%) overall and 4-of-24 (16.7%) from deep.
Hakim Hart led the ‘Cats with a stellar performance off the bench. He scored 20 points on an efficient 7-of-10 performance, that included a 4-for-4 showing from long range. It was the most points Hart had scored off the bench in his career.
Eric Dixon had 12 points and two blocks. T.J. Bamba finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Mark Armstrong chipped in nine points, three boards and three assists, while Jordan Longino and Tyler Burton each had eight points.
Of the 11 players who saw the floor for Villanova, eight different players shot at least 50% or better in the win. It was a complete reversal, after the ‘Cats had lost in the Wintrust Arena last season.
For DePaul, Chico Carter Jr., Jaden Henley and Da’Sean Nelson each had 11 points in the loss.
Villanova is now 9-4 overall and 2-0 in Big East play. The ‘Cats will have another break until their next game, which won’t be until after the New Year. Villanova will return home for a showdown with Xavier on Jan. 3, 2024. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET.