The Villanova Wildcats used a second half offensive explosion and horrific defense by the home team to trounce the DePaul Blue Demons on the road Tuesday night at AllState Arena, located just outside of Chicago in Rosemont, Illinois. Villanova improved to 14-9 overall, and 5-5 in the Big East, while DePaul dropped their seventh straight game to fall to 10-12 overall, and 1-8 in conference play.
Freshman point guard Ryan Arcidiacono led the Wildcats with 23 points as ‘Nova sank just under 60 percent of their attempts from the field and 10 of 18 (56%) from 3-point range on the night and opened the second half by draining 22 of 27 shots to open up a double-digit lead that grew to 27 points in the final minutes. The game was tied at 40 apiece at the half before the visitors dropped 54 points in the final 20 minutes to secure the victory. The Wildcats also notched a season-high 18 assists as a team.
Villanova started out strong in the early-going, building a 9-4 lead on the strength of 5 points from Junior James Bell, including a trey, and 3 of 4 shooting overall. Another 3-point basket by Bell gave the Wildcats a 16-9 lead, but back to back triples by DePaul quickly narrowed that lead to 1 at 16-15 with just under 11 minutes to play in the first half.
The two teams traded baskets over the next several minutes, while DePaul’s best player, Cleveland Melvin, began heating up on the interior, scoring 6 straight points to deadlock the game at 23 with 6 minutes remaining. The Blue Demons, who averaged just 5 3-pointers a game on the season coming into the night, hit 5 of their first 9 attempts from beyond the arc, grabbing a 29-26 advantage with 5:21 remaining in the opening period.
The Wildcats used a 6-0 run capped off by a nifty Darrun Hilliard drive and finish to give themselves a 34-30 lead, but more long-range shooting and dominance on the inside by Melvin tied the game at 40 at the end of the first 20 minutes. As has been the case for most of the season for Villanova, they did not do a good job defending the 3-point line, resulting in DePaul making 7 of 14 from deep. The Wildcats also committed 10 turnovers in the half, another persistent issue for Jay Wright‘s squad, which led to 15 points for the Demons. At the break, it appeared as though it was going to be another typical Big East battle, eventually going down to the wire in order to decide the victor.
Ryan Arcidiacono led the Wildcats in first half scoring with 10 points, James Bell added eight more, with ‘Nova connecting on 12 of 25 from the field as a team. Cleveland Melvin led DePaul at the break with 13 points, while Worrel Clahar added 9 points.
Villanova busted out of the blocks to start the second half, scoring on their first 5 possessions, resulting in an 11-3 run, including 5 points from Arcidiacono and a pretty floater in the lane by Bell. With the clock showing 17:45 to play, the Wildcats held a 51-43 lead.
Over the first 8 minutes of the second half, ‘Nova drained an incredible 11 of 12 shots from the field, building a 65-53 advantage. The offensive efficiency did not stop there however, as the Wildcats scored 18 of the game’s next 25 points, improving their second half shooting numbers to 18 of 23 from the field, including 5 of 6 from beyond the arc and a thunderous, two-handed dunk by Daniel Ochefu off a baseline drive and dish from Tony Chennault. With 6:10 left in the game, they held a 23 point advantage over the Blue Demons, 83-60, and the visiting ‘Cats coasted home from then on, en-route to their largest Big East Conference margin of victory this season, with a final score of 94-71.
Six Wildcats finished with double figures in scoring, led by Arcidiacono’s 23, including 5 of 10 from 3-point range, to go along with 5 assists, in what was one of his best games of his young collegiate career. Mouphtaou Yarou recorded 11 points along with a team-high 7 rebounds, James Bell finished with 16 points and 6 rebounds, and Darrun Hilliard added 17 points. Tony Chennault and JayVaughn Pinkston each chipped in with 10 and 11 points, respectively.
Often the trademark of a young team, Villanova has been maddeningly inconsistent this season. After shooting just 29 percent from the field in their home loss to Providence this past weekend, which followed another disappointing loss on the road at Notre Dame, the young ‘Cats put together their best game of the year Tuesday night against DePaul. At the midway point of their Big East schedule, ‘Nova still has to play 17th-ranked Cincinnati and 23rd-ranked Pittsburgh on the road, as well as 24th-ranked Marquette and 20th-ranked Georgetown at home. The Wildcats are more than likely going to have to win at least 2 of those games in order to legitimately have a shot at making the NCAA Tournament this year, and if they play the way they did against DePaul, their chances of doing just that look promising.
Villanova returns home to the Pavilion on Saturday, February 9th, to take on the South Florida Bulls (10-11 overall, 1-8 Big East), in what will be another must-win game for the ‘Cats. Tip-off is at 3:00 PM and can be seen on ESPNU.Tags: Big 5, College Basketball, Darrun Hilliard, James Bell, Jay Wright, NCAA, Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova