‘Cats Rout DePaul, 67-43, Complete Season Sweep


Courtesy of the Philadelphia Inquirer

Junior guard Justin Moore led the Wildcats in scoring with 16 points.

Owen Hewitt, Staff Writer

On Tuesday night, the Villanova Wildcats beat the DePaul Blue Demons 67-43 to improve to 15-5, 8-2 in the Big East. Junior guard Justin Moore led the team in scoring with 16 points, while sophomore forward Eric Dixon finished with a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds. Graduate guard Collin Gillespie finished with 14 points and a team-high two assists.

The game started with Moore making a statement, pump faking a three-point shot, driving into the lane and throwing down a dunk just under three minutes into the first half of play. Moore then exploded from three, shooting 3-for-3 and posting 11 of the ‘Cats 19 points in the first 10 minutes. The other eight came from senior forward Brandon Slater, who hit a three, and graduate forward Jermaine Samuels, who had a three and a driving layup. 

“I was just being aggressive and taking my looks when they were there,” Moore said of his early takeover. “My teammates were finding me. I was being aggressive and trying to get to the rim or take my open shots.”

The ‘Cats continued to take and make from downtown as redshirt senior guard Caleb Daniels hit a three from the right wing to push the Wildcats’ lead to nine, finishing a 7-0 run for Villanova. 

After a short Blue Demons answer, the ‘Cats continued to build their lead, going on an 11-0 run that lasted just over three and a half minutes. That scoring spurt, led by Gillespie, who contributed six points on two threes, expanded the Wildcats’ advantage to 15. The ‘Cats would carry a 13-point lead into the half, leading 35-22.

Offense from the outside played a major role in the game as the Wildcats were at a size disadvantage throughout. Half of the Blue Demons players who logged minutes in the first frame stood at 6-foot-7 or taller. DePaul’s junior center Nick Ongenda and senior forward Yor Anei both stand taller than any player on the ‘Cats roster, listed at 6-11 and 6-10, respectively. 

“I didn’t really change anything, I just tried to take what was there, and tried to be tough and physical,” Dixon said. “DePaul’s forwards are super good. I mean really athletic and strong and tough, smart as well. It was definitely a good challenge, but I didn’t change anything.”

At the half, the ‘Cats had posted just 10 points in the paint and were losing the rebounding battle 17-13 and 6-2 on the offensive glass. The answer for the team’s struggles inside was the long ball as the ‘Cats shot 8-12 from three in the first half, a major uptick from the squad’s last game in the Finneran Pavilion against Marquette, where Villanova shot 6-24. 

The ‘Cats finished the game outrebounding the Blue Demons 33-30 despite the size disadvantage.“We did outrebound them, which is an accomplishment,” head coach Jay Wright said.

Moore was the leading scorer for the ‘Cats in the first half, despite being held scoreless after his initial 11-point outburst. Dixon led the team in rebounding, posting four at the break.

The second half started with intense defense from Villanova as Slater nabbed an early steal and Samuels followed with a rejection on a Blue Demon drive on the next possession. DePaul started to look towards the perimeter as their interior offense stalled, shooting 2-2 from three in the early goings of the second. 

The ‘Cats came out of the break in a shooting slump, scoring just five points in the first eight minutes. The poor shooting from Villanova allowed the Blue Demons to cut the lead from 13 to six with 11:48 left to play. 

“The message all night was ‘these guys are long, and aggressive and they’re on the offensive glass and they’re backing us down in the post, and we’ve got to be physical,’” Wright said. “But it wasn’t just then, it was all night.”

Gillespie sank a three to build the lead back up to nine and break the ‘Cats out of a nearly six-minute long scoring drought with 11:29 left in the game. Gillespie started to heat up, hitting another three to increase Villanova’s lead to 12. Moore then contributed with a three of his own, his first points since the 12:33 mark in the first half. 

The Wildcats continued to play some intense defense while trying to close the game out. Moore came away with a steal on a cross-court pass after having his own three-pointer blocked on the other end. 

Dixon threw down an emphatic slam off of a Blue Demons turnover to cap off a 7-0 run and put the ‘Cats up 17 with 6:33 remaining. Points off turnovers also helped the Wildcats overcome their struggles from the interior, as the squad turned 15 DePaul turnovers into 18 points. 

Dixon tipped in an errant shot to increase the lead to 20 and DePaul would never get any closer. Senior guard Kevin Voigt and freshman forward Trey Patterson also saw some game time as the ‘Cats closed the game out. Villanova finished with 26 points in the paint, 16 of which came in the second half. 

The win keeps the Wildcats in second place in the Big East, trailing only the Providence Friars (6-1 Big East), who are currently on a COVID break. The ‘Cats will be back in action on Saturday afternoon, taking on St. John’s at 4:30 in the Finneran Pavilion.