VILLANOVA, January 8, 2012 – The Villanova Wildcats took the floor looking for a bounce-back win at the Pavilion after losing at home to South Florida in their last outing. They met the DePaul Blue Demons who were coming off an upset win over Pitt that same night. One team was looking to end a streak, the other looking to start one. In the end it was Villanova who ended a three-game losing streak defeating DePaul 87 – 71 in front of 6,500 at the Pavilion.
“We had a good win that we needed,” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright. “This definitely helps. We just want to keep getting better. The thing about the South Florida game was, we were getting better, and then we took a step back. We knew we knocked ourselves back that we couldn’t respond today, but we’re still trying to get better. This definitely makes us feel better. We’re getting better.”
“It is starting to come around for us,” said Junior guard Maalik Wayns. “We have some young guys who are finding themselves and do things they never did before. It’s a new role for everybody. To play defense like that and get a win was great for us. ”
The game was going to be match of contrasting styles. Villanova would rely on an inside game and take the ball to the basket as a reaction to pressure defense put up by the Blue Demons. DePaul tried to win it with the three-point shot. It was the Wildcats that would prevail as they would have a 44-22 advantage in points in the paint. The pace of the game made Villanova go inside and it allowed them to shoot a high percentage making 28 of 50 shots for 56%. The style also put the Wildcats on the foul line 34 times, making 27 free throws.
“Most of the game they were pressing us, and we were breaking the press, driving to the basket making layups,” said Junior guard Dominic Cheek. “We kept taking it to the basket making plays.”
Villanova was able to keep DePaul off the 3-Point line. Defensively, the Wildcats forced the Demons into 8 – 27 shooting from beyond the arc. The defense showed Villanova understood what they needed to do, and Wright was pleased in how they did it.
“I thought we did a great job on (Jeremiah) Kelly, and Maalik (Wayns) had him,” Wright said. We have to put him on their best perimeter player. Defense is as much playing together as offense. Offense is sharing the ball. Defense for us is more of playing together, trusting each other, communicating with each other. We’re not good at that yet, but today, we were pretty good at it.”
Turnovers were an issue for Villanova. Fortunately, it didn’t kill them. The Wildcats turned the ball over 28 times, but the Blue Demons got 18 points off turnovers. DePaul committed 14 miscues leading to 14 Villanova points.
The Wildcats had four players score in double-figures. Wayns had a team-high in points with 21 and rebounds with 8. Cheek scored 20 and grabbed 6 rebounds. Junior forward Mouphtaou Yarou chipped in 13 points and 7 rebounds. Freshman forward JayVaughn Pinkston totaled 13 points. Guard Brandon Young had a game-high 22 points for DePaul. Forward Cleveland Melvin added 19 points.
The 87 points was Villanova’s second highest point total of the season. They out-rebounded the Demons by a 45 – 23 margin.
Villanova finished a three-game home stand on January 11 as they meet the unbeaten, top-ranked Orange of Syracuse at the Wells Fargo Center.
“It’s exciting,” Wright said about the upcoming game. “We love this. The greatest thing about being in the Big East is that you’re going against number 1, 2, or 3, somebody you’re going to get on your home court. You don’t get to do that if you’re in other conferences. We live for this. This is going to be fun. It’s nice going into that game with a win and feel good about yourself. To play against them, you have to play with confidence.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian