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Villanova Basketball 2021-22 game preview: DePaul Blue Demons

The ‘Cats will try to start a new winning streak at the Finn.

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at DePaul David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Villanova Wildcats (14-5, 7-2 Big East) return to action on Tuesday night at Finneran Pavilion against DePaul. The ‘Cats will try to start a new winning streak at the Pavilion after the upset loss to Marquette last week.

DePaul will look to pull off a massive upset and pick up their second win in conference play. Currently they sit at 10-8 overall, 1-7 in the Big East and is coming off a road loss to Creighton. The game was normally scheduled to start at 5 p.m. ET, but has been moved to 7 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.

The Opponent

The DePaul Blue Demons had a fantastic start to the season getting out to a 9-1 record with its only loss coming to Loyola-Chicago. The Blue Demons picked up quality wins at home against Rutgers and Duquesne and went on the road to defeat Louisville. Big East play has not been kind to DePaul as they only have one win in the conference, at home to Seton Hall on January 13. The team from Chicago led by 17 at halftime but barely held on for a four point win, 96-92. Just this past Saturday, DePaul also led Creighton at halftime but ultimately lost by 13, 60-47. The Blue Demons are usually in every game, and three of DePaul’s Big East losses have been by five points or less. It would be wise for the ‘Cats to get off to a fast start and put the Blue Demons away early.

DePaul is led by a familiar name to ‘Nova fans in Javon Freeman-Liberty. He led the Blue Demons against the ‘Cats with a 34-point outing, but he’s been playing well all year. The senior guard has played in all but two of the Blue Demons’ 18 games so far this season. In those 16 games, Liberty-Freeman is averaging 21.1 points per game, which leads the team.

Forward, David Jones, has also had an incredible season. Playing in all but one game this season, the sophomore averages just shy of 16 points per game. Jones’ season-high came against Louisville where he scored 33 of DePaul’s 62 points.

Brandon Johnson has been the iron man for DePaul as he has appeared in all 18 games. On the year, the senior forward has averaged just under 11 points per game. His season high came against Central Michigan where he scored 20. However, his most impressive game came on the road at Butler where he put up a double-double in 39 minutes of work.

As a team, DePaul ranks fourth in the conference in points per game at 75.7, according to Fox Sports. Villanova ranks eighth in the conference, so if I’m Jay Wright I go into this game with a defensive minded game plan. There also needs to be an emphasis on defensive rebounding in this game. DePaul averages a little over 11 offensive rebounds per game. In the Georgetown game, Jay Wright went small in the 2nd half. That probably will not work in this game against the Blue Demons. This means that Eric Dixon needs to have a bounce back game at home.

Last Meeting

If you watched the last game against the Blue Demons, there were probably times when you wanted to punch a wall. The Wildcats dug themselves a hole and trailed by five at halftime. Freeman-Liberty could not miss and it looked like the ‘Cats were going to be upset on the road. However, Collin Gillespie was not going to let that happen. Gillespie went off and finished with a season-high 28 points in the win. Gillespie will need to play a game like this at the Finn to lead the ‘Cats to victory. Just last week, he was held to 10 points against Marquette which will not get the job done in the Big East, regardless of the opponent. The ‘Cats will also need to put the clamps on, just as they did in the 2nd half of the first meeting where they limited DePaul to just 27 second half points.

Additionally in the game, Justin Moore put up a solid 21 points while knocking down three triples.

For DePaul, Freeman-Liberty was the big story of the game. He dropped a whopping 34 points and connected on 50% of his three point attempts.

‘Cats Back in the Win Column

It did not come easy, but Villanova defeated Georgetown on the road this past Saturday, 85-74. It was a much needed victory after the surprising loss to Marquette at home. Villanova once again trailed at halftime in D.C. It was a sluggish first half and Georgetown had all the momentum going into the second half. But Jay Wright worked his magic once again at halftime and the ‘Cats took care of business. If the ‘Cats can have an all around complete game, it would give this team a load of confidence. Get a lead at halftime, lock down on defense, put the clamps on Freeman-Liberty, and get defensive rebounds. If all four of those happen, expect the Wildcats to start another winning streak at the Finn.