ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Villanova coach Jay Wright would have liked more consistent play in the second half, but a strong first 20 minutes gave the No. 2 Wildcats more than enough cushion for a 75-62 Big East victory over DePaul on Monday night at Allstate Arena. "We played a great first half and I was really proud with how we started," Wright said. "I've watched DePaul all year. You've got to give them credit, in any game we've watched them, they don't quit. They keep playing, and (tonight) they did." Jalen Brunson scored 18 points and Josh Hart added 16 to lead a balanced attack as Villanova ran its winning streak to six. Mikal Bridges collected 15 points and Kris Jenkins added 13 as the Wildcats (25-2, 12-2) opened a three-game lead over second-place Creighton and Xavier -- both 8-4 and idle on Monday. Chris Harrison-Docks scored 18 points and Eli Cain added 11 as DePaul (8-18, 1-12) suffered its ninth straight loss. Hart picked up two quick fouls and was limited to three first-half points, but he contributed in other ways. "Josh got in foul trouble in the first half," Wright said, "but he just came out focused on defense and the rebounding battle and he set the tone for our young team." DePaul took the reigning NCAA champions into the final minute before the Wildcats prevailed 68-65 on Dec. 28 at the Pavilion. On Monday, the visitors never trailed and turned a three-point lead into a 39-18 margin by halftime as Brunson scored 12 points and Villanova collectively shot 12 of 23 from the field (52.2 percent). DePaul had more first-half turnovers (nine) than field goals (seven) and was 7 of 25 from the field (28 percent) with just one 3-pointer. "In order to win a game like that or put yourself in a position to win, you've got to play physically but especially mentally be at the top of your game," DePaul coach Dave Leitao said. "That first half we did anything but." In the second half, a Bridges dunk opened a 48-21 lead, Villanova's high-water mark. DePaul launched a 10-0 run during a 2:12 stretch to close to 48-21. But it was too little too late, although DePaul managed to cut the deficit to 12 in the final minute. "We got sloppy with the ball, we got sloppy defensively and we didn't focus on details," Wright said. "And they (the Blue Demons) kept playing hard." Villanova forward Darryl Reynolds missed his second straight game with a rib injury. He was originally listed as probable but didn't play. Leitao said he was impressed with how the Wildcats picked up the slack without Reynolds, who started 25 straight games before his injury. "They play as a program, everybody fits in whatever their role," he said. "Even now with a shortened bench they really play well together." The Wildcats have won 14 straight against DePaul and lead the series 24-8. NOTES: Villanova's Josh Hart was named Big East Player of the Week for the fourth time this season after averaging 18.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists in two wins last week. ... Teammate Donte DiVincenzo landed on the conference honor roll with 18.5 points and 7.5 rebounds last week. ... The Wildcats were ranked No. 2 in new polls this week and have been No. 4 or better for 15 straight weeks. ... No. 2 Creighton and No. 24 Butler were the Big East teams in the Top 25 while Xavier received votes. ... Villanova is at Seton Hall on Saturday. DePaul travels to Butler on Sunday for a fourth straight game against a ranked team. ... The Blue Demons have just two more home games at Allstate Arena after a 37-year run. They'll move to Intrust Arena, a new downtown facility, later this year. ... DePaul's last win over Villanova was an 84-76 decision on Jan. 3, 2008.
No. 2 Villanova defeats DePaul for sixth straight win
The Sports Xchange | Feb 14