With legends Jay Wright and Jalen Brunson back in the building, the Villanova Wildcats were primed to put on a show for the familiar faces in the crowd right?
Well it certainly did not start out that way, but the ‘Cats finished strong and shook off their recent late-game woes, using an 11-0 run over the final 3:14 to seal their 81-65 revenge win over DePaul at home on Wednesday night.
“Credit to DePaul, they came out and played extremely hard, especially in the first ten minutes of the game,” said Villanova coach Kyle Neptune.
Both teams got off to a slow start but it was DePaul’s Yor Anei netting the first two baskets of the game, giving the Blue Demons an early advantage. It would not be until the 16:26 mark of the first half to get the Wildcats on the board, by way of an Eric Dixon hook shot.
Although the Wildcats were finally on the board, things did not get better from there. A Javan Johnson three gave the Blue Demons a 21-12 advantage with 10:37 to go in the first half.
“They kind of had us on our heels a little bit,” Neptune said.
From there, Villanova would go on their own 8-0 run to cut the deficit to just one. Brendan Hausen would hit the first of his two first half three-pointers to give the Wildcats the lead, 23-22.
“A lot of credit to our guys as well,” Neptune added. “We fought all the way through a couple of runs and we just kept playing.”
Villanova would never surrender the lead and got it up to as high as eight, before an Umoja Gibson buzzer-beater cut the lead down to 37-34 at the halftime break.
A Brandon Slater three would open up the scoring in the second half, but then the ‘Cats cooled off as a 9-0 DePaul run capped with a Philmon Gebrewhit jumper gave the Blue Demons a 43-40 lead.
A signature Cam slam, followed by two free throws would put the two teams on the metaphorical seesaw for just about five minutes of game time. A Caleb Daniels three would get the Wildcats off the seesaw, and give them a two point advantage with just under ten minutes left in regulation.
Daniels was not done there, as he would go on to connect on two more three pointers to put the Wildcats up by six.
Caleb Daniels finished 7-10 from the field and 4-5 from deep and was asked if anything felt different tonight that allowed him to have such a big performance.
“No, it didn’t feel different,” Daniels said. “I just thank my teammates for trusting me, and trusting the work we put in every single day.”
DePaul would threaten, before the ‘Cats big run helped them seal their first win to break a three-game losing streak.
All five starters for the Wildcats finished in double figures. Daniels led all scorers with 18 points, including a 4-of-5 shooting clip from deep.
Justin Moore, who is looking a whole lot like the Justin Moore of old, finished with 17 points. Moore was 2-of-10 from deep, but he was 5-for-6 from inside the arc. He also added five rebounds.
“Competing with my teammates, getting stops on defense and just playing as hard as I can, I’m not really worried about my shot going in,” Moore said. “I work on that every day, that’s going to fall. My main focus is competing at the highest level with my teammates.”
Cam Whitmore chipped in 17 points and seven boards. Eric Dixon and Brandon Slater rounded out the scoring with 13 and 10 points, respectively.
For DePaul, Javan Johnson and Umoja Gibson each had 18 points. Da’Sean Nelson also had a solid outing posting nine points, six rebounds and three assists off the bench.
The Wildcats improve to 11-13 overall and 5-8 in Big East play. They’ll return to action at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night, when they take on Seton Hall. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET.