On a night where Villanova head coach, Jay Wright, remarked, “coldest place I’ve ever been to,” as he was leaving his post-game presser, The DePaul Blue Demons froze over in the 2nd half and fell to the Wildcats 86-74.
DePaul finished the game with twice as many blocks as Villanova, shot the ball at 52.9% for the game (27-of-51) compared to the Wildcats’ 47% (31-66) and were almost even in rebounds and assists. So where was the differentiation? The difference was in 3-point shooting. Although DePaul shot the three efficiently finishing at 43.8% on 7-of-16 behind the arc, they couldn’t keep up with the pure volume of threes Villanova was taking and making, as they finished at 42.9% on 15-of-35 from three.
“We know we have really good shooters, we’re never discouraged when we miss,” said Wright.
Villanova started the half up by four and in the blink of an eye they were up 51-38. Villanova rained in nine of their threes in the 2nd half and nearly all of them were caused by Demon defenders committing one of the deadly sins of defensive basketball, ball-watching. Seemingly every time DePaul needed a big defensive stop, Villanova was able to drive into the lane and kick the ball out to an open shooter for one three after another.
“At the start of the 2nd half,” said the DePaul head coach Dave Leitao “we didn’t guard them as intensely. Their style is so unique… it’s like watching an NBA team because they spread you out, shoot 3s and we were a little slow on our rotations.”
Villanova would stretch the lead out to as much as 17 in the 2nd half and although DePaul was able to close the gap to seven with valiant efforts from Femi Olujobi (20 points, eight rebounds) and Eli Cain (17 points), they were never able to fully recover because of the lack of threes they were able to make.
Max Strus, the star, 3-point sharpshooter for DePaul, finished the game a paltry 2-of-9 from 3-point land and has shot the three at a 27% mark over his last five games.
“They were 2-for-6 in the 2nd half (from three) so that’s pretty good (for us),” said Wright. “It’s hard because they have good size, Strus moves really good without the ball. Threes make a difference and they had some turnovers. You have to score against them because they have so many weapons.”
DePaul started the game off strong, tying up the Wildcats at nine apiece at the first media timeout. The first half featured fast-paced action with both teams pushing the ball up the floor, competing for loose balls and getting physical on the boards.
Phil Booth was a cool customer for the Wildcats in the first half as he made his first two threes and continually probed the middle of the DePaul defense with much efficiency. Eric Paschall was also able to exert his will over DePaul for most of the game and finished with 20 points.
The Blue Demons were able to respond, however, with players like Devin Gage and Femi Olujobi stepping up for key baskets to keep things close. Eli Cain also shot the ball well in the first half, including a step-back three to beat the buzzer and send DePaul into the half down 40-36. With that triple, Eli Cain moved into DePaul’s top-5 in career 3-point field goals made. That is about all that went right for DePaul on this night.
The loss moved the Blue Demons to 11-9 overall, 3-6 in conference play and in 9th place in the conference standings. Their next game is against the Providence Friars at the Wintrust Arena on February 2, 2019.
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