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Moore Rescues Villanova from DePaul in Big East First Round, 58–57

Courtesy of Villanova Athletics
Graduate guard Justin Moore scored a game-winning three-pointer with 8.8 seconds to go, putting Villanova past DePaul 58–57 on Wednesday night.

When Villanova trailed 57–55 in the final moments of its matchup against DePaul on Wednesday, March 13, it looked as though dreams of an appearance in the NCAA Tournament could be crushed.

Graduate guard Justin Moore was determined to keep those hopes alive. Moore sank the game-winning three-pointer at 8.8 seconds to give the ‘Cats a 58–57 victory at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

“I was proud of our resiliency,” head coach Kyle Neptune said. “Thank God for Justin Moore.”

No. 6 seed Villanova (18–4 overall, 10–10) started the Big East tournament against a vulnerable conference target: No. 11 seed DePaul (3–28 overall, 0–20). In their last contest on Jan. 13, the ‘Cats conquered the Blue Demons, 94–69. 

However, Wednesday night’s game was a back-and-forth battle from start to finish.

Senior forward Eric Dixon led the ‘Cats with 21 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore guard Mark Armstrong finished the night with 11 points and four assists. In addition to sealing the narrow win for Villanova, Moore contributed 10 points, six rebounds and four assists.

Villanova opened to a 7–0 lead across four slow minutes of play. 

Meanwhile, the Blue Demons missed their first seven attempts at a basket.

The Wildcats stayed on top of the scoreboard for most of the first half, but could never build a significant advantage. They went 11–26 from the field and 4–15 from three across the first twenty minutes.

Villanova reached its greatest lead of the half with just under eight minutes remaining. Dixon found a look to assist graduate forward Tyler Burton, who dunked to put Villanova up 17–9.

The Blue Demons responded defensively, holding the Wildcats to an over four-minute scoring drought. 

It was enough time for DePaul to close the deficit and push ahead 20–19 with just above two minutes left in the first half.

Junior guard Jordan Longino connected on a three-pointer in each of Villanova’s last two possessions for a slim 27–25 lead.

The first twenty minutes at Madison Square Garden did not resemble Villanova’s previous meeting with DePaul, in which it went into the break soaring by double-digits.

It remained a two-point game at halftime.

Less than five minutes into the second half, a new problem arrived for Villanova when Longino went down with a left leg injury. Sophomore guard Brendan Hausen took Longino’s place as he went to the sidelines.

Longino’s injury occurred in the middle of an 11–0 burst on DePaul’s end. Preventing the Wildcats from scoring for a more than five-minute stretch, the Blue Demons developed a 40–32 lead.

Eight of DePaul’s second-half points came off Villanova turnovers.

Neptune called a timeout with just under 13 minutes to play.

“We had some defensive breakdowns but I thought we did some good things,” Neptune said. “We just couldn’t buy a basket but we hung in there, got some stops and fought back.”

The Wildcats scrambled to recover the game after the chance to reset. A three-pointer and layup from Dixon, along with another three from Burton, evened the score 40–40.

Burton continued to spearhead the offensive recovery, assisting a Moore three-pointer and then dunking to propel Villanova forward, 43–42.

But as the last five minutes arrived, neither team controlled the game. At one minute, the ‘Cats were behind 57–55.

Sophomore guard Mark Armstrong swatted away a DePaul shot attempt. Then, a shot clock turnover by the Blue Demons gave the ‘Cats possession with 17 seconds and no timeouts left.

“It was just a ball screen between me and [Dixon],” Moore said. “[DePaul] gave me too much space and I just stepped into it with confidence.”

Armstrong made a critical steal as the last seconds ticked away after Moore’s game-winning shot.

The Wildcats are in for another late-night game at Madison Square Garden, moving onto the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament. After the close win, Villanova dropped from 33 to 40 in NCAA NET rankings.

Villanova will face No. 3 seed Marquette (23–8 overall, 14–6) on Thursday, March 14. The Golden Eagles are ranked 13 in the NCAA and received a bye in the first round of the Big East Tournament. 

Marquette will be missing senior guard and second-leading scorer Tyler Kolek due to an oblique injury.

Tip-off against the Golden Eagles is set for 9:30 p.m. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.

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About the Contributor
Katie Lewis
Katie Lewis, Co-Sports Editor
Katie Lewis is a sophomore from Miami, FL in her first year as Co-Sports Editor in 2024. From covering games to writing features and profiles, she loves to find the story behind Villanova sports. Pursuing her enthusiasm for writing and journalism in her studies at Villanova, Katie is double-majoring in English and Communication with concentrations in Journalism and Writing & Rhetoric. When Katie isn’t at Holy Grounds working on her next article, she enjoys playing tennis with Villanova’s club team.
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