There’s no place like home, and the Villanova Wildcats will be back in the comfort of Finneran Pavilion after a tough midwest road trip, where they fell in the closing minutes to Marquette and Creighton.
Villanova (10-13, 4-8 Big East) will look to bounce back from a three-game losing stretch. There are hardly any guarantees these days, especially against a DePaul team that is also limping into Wednesday’s matchup amid a losing streak.
The Blue Demons (9-15, 3-10 Big East) have lost each of their last five games, but they did triumph against ‘Nova back on Jan. 10, defeating the ‘Cats, 75-65, to break Villanova’s 15-year, 22-game winning streak.
The Wildcats will look to avenge that loss and start a new winning streak over DePaul, when things tip-off at 8:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday night.
Jay Wright, Jalen Brunson to be honored
On a day where two Villanova legends are set to be honored, there’s no way the ‘Cats allow a letdown at home, right?
Wright will be away from the broadcast booth and back in the building for a pre-game ceremony, where the university will officially commemorate and honor the Hall of Fame coach for his 21 years on the Main Line. If you’re going to the game on Wednesday, you’re encouraged to be in your seats by 8 p.m. (30 minutes before tip-off) to catch the special ceremony.
Then, at halftime, Villanova will pay tribute and formally retire Jalen Brunson’s jersey. The New York Knicks point guard and two-time national champ will join former teammates Ryan Arcidiacono (2020) and Josh Hart (2022), who also had their jerseys retired in recent years.
The Justin Moore effect
It’s clear that his return has impacted the ‘Cats in a positive manner, and his presence alone will be a key difference from their previous meeting with DePaul on Jan. 10.
Moore, who’s only played in three games so far, is coming off of his best statistical performance since making his return, tallying 13 points on 4-of-11 shooting (including three made 3-pointers), with two boards, two assists, but three turnovers.
Ideally, he would build off of his last individual performance and continue to take positive steps forward as he gets more and more readjusted to game day. While DePaul bested the ‘Cats late last time out, the Blue Demons are also no Providence, Marquette or Creighton.
The Wildcats have yet to experience a win since Moore’s return, but Wednesday might provide a solid chance to finally break through back on the win column.
There’s no doubt that a lot will come down to late-game execution, particularly on the offensive end, where the ‘Cats have been struggling as a team down the stretch in recent outings. ‘Nova went cold in the closing minutes against DePaul the last time out, and it will try to avoid the same fate at home.
Did some stat combing.— Eugene Rapay (@erapay5) February 6, 2023
Interesting shooting splits for Villanova in final 7 minutes + OT this season.
Might also be indicative of how tough it is closing in Big East play, but there are also noticeable offensive lulls. @VUhoops
Pure FG% numbers in final 7 minutes pic.twitter.com/cNeGSJwleN
Tuning up for impact transfers
DePaul might be stuck in a rut, but it demonstrated its potential win it defeated the ‘Cats earlier in the year, then followed up with another big home win against then-ranked No. 8 Xavier.
The slumping Blue Demons won’t need any extra motivation when facing off against the ‘Cats though, but it is worth noting that they haven’t been nearly as successful away from home. Seven of their nine wins were at home, and the two lone road wins weren’t against quality opponents, but over struggling Minnesota and Loyola-Chicago.
As Villanova got to experience first-hand the last time out, DePaul got a big boost from the transfer portal. Transfer quartet of Da’Sean Nelson (JUCO transfer from Kilgore College), Eral Penn (LIU), Javan Johnson (Iowa State) and Umoja Gibson (Oklahoma) accounted for 63 of DePaul’s 75 points against the ‘Cats.
Nelson had the biggest game of them all, posting a career-high 24 points, with eight rebounds, scoring nearly at-will with an efficient 9-of-12 shooting clip off the bench. Villanova will have to do a better job of keying in on him and standing tall inside to prevent him from having another big performance.
Johnson hit a series of timely threes against the ‘Cats, finishing 4-of-6 from long range with 18 points, plus seven rebounds. He had a disappointing scoreless outing against Seton Hall, and it’s unlikely he lays back-to-back goose eggs, so expect him to come fired up.
Gibson is a solid facilitator that can add a scoring punch. He’s scored 20-plus points in three of the last four games, and in the one game against UConn where he was limited to eight points, he still managed to dish out eight assists with only one turnover. He’s also a solid defender and can be quite disruptive.
As for Penn, he’s the team’s top rebounder at only 6-foot-6. The ‘Cats did a good job of boxing out and limiting his impact on the glass, as he only had five boards — short of his average of 7.3 rebounds per game. He’s also mostly an interior scoring threat and has 9.5 pounds per game this season.