VILLANOVA, PA. 1/2/2019 – Villanova opened Big East play at home against the Blue Demons of DePaul. If this game is any indicator of the conference season, there will be many close, hard fought games. Such was the case, and Villanova comes away with 73 – 68 victory at home.
“We just kept grinding,” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright. “That’s what the Big East is going to be like this year. There is not going to be an easy game anywhere, anytime. We have to be ready to grind out everything and earn everything we get.”
DePaul led for most of the game. At one point the Demons held a 14 point lead midway through the first half. Villanova stayed in contention and got their first lead on a Phil Booth three-pointer with 7:58 to play. Once Nova got the lead, they did not give it up. Booth nailed another three with 3:56 on the clock which gave the Cats their largest lead at 69 – 63. Still the Demons would not go away getting to within a possession twice more. Forward Eric Paschall sank two free throws, 2 of his game-high 24 points. DePaul had a final opportunity but missed a three, Booth ended the scoring from the foul line.
“Credit them (Villanova) they got down and were down for most of the game, there was no level of panic in anything they were doing on offense and defense,” said DePaul Coach Leitao. “If something wasn’t going well, they waited to the next play. They know what it feels like.”
A key factor in the second half was the Wildcats ability to create turnovers. For the game the Blue Demons had 18 turnovers, 8 off steals, and were on the wrong side of an 18 – 4 points off turnovers margin. It had the biggest impact in the second half when Nova had 7 steals.
“Once we got it close some of those turnovers were important,” Wright said. “We did have a stretch in the middle of the second half where we got aggressive and did get some steals in our zone defense.”
Villanova made 23 of 55 field goals, 11 of 32 from distance, and had 16 free throws compared to 4. DePaul made 28 of 53, 8 for 20 from deep out shooting Nova.
“They did a great job defensively, showing different looks,” said Booth. “They have a lot of length. Shots didn’t start to fall until later in the second half.”
Four Blue Demons scored in double figures led by Eli Cain and Max Strus, who also had 8 rebounds, with 16 each. Femi Olujobi scored 12 points and Devin Gage added 10.
Booth contributed 15 points and 6 assists for the Wildcats. Freshman Saddiq Bey scored 15 points, one shy of his career-high. Paschall pulled down 6 rebounds and was 8 of 8 from the free throw line.
Villanova, who came off a ten-day break, improves to 10 – 4 and has another Big East battle with Providence on the road on Saturday. The team knows to be ready.
“I feel that every team in the Big East is good,” said Paschall. “I watch the Big East games and every game is a battle.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian