In a game where DePaul needed everything to go right, it seemed as if nothing could go their way as they fell to the Villanova Wildcats, 84-61.
It was their first conference loss of the season in which DePaul had started 3-0, their best conference start since 1991.
When previewing the matchup Thursday, head coach Oliver Purnell talked about the need to start strong on the road, especially against a team like Villanova who only lost at home once in the past two seasons.
“It’s very tough to win on the road,” he said. “You have to match the energy and desire of the opponent and at the same time do the little things in your game plan.”
DePaul failed to start strong and, in fact, did the exact opposite. Billy Garrett Jr. opened up the scoring with a three-point shot to put the Blue Demons up early but everything after that was all Villanova. After DePaul took a 5-3 lead, the Wildcats went on a 13-0 run to take an early 16-5 lead.
Villanova continued to build their lead after the run as they continued to force DePaul out of the game. Along with strong ball movement, Villanova took advantage of DePaul’s miscues. They forced 10 turnovers in the first half and scored 12 points off them.
When the Blue Demons did not turn the ball over, they were unable to put many points up. They had two separate five-minute stretches without a point in the first half as the game ran away from them.
At the same time, DePaul was not able to shut down the Wildcats’ ball movement. Purnell had mentioned before the game the need for constant defensive pressure on Villanova.
“What you want is to have their passers under duress so that they don’t deliver the ball on time and on target,” he said.
The Wildcats ened up with 23 assists on the afternoon, and led at halftime 45-24.
DePaul started the second half right where they left off in the first half, turning the ball over on four straight possessions as Villanova extended their lead.
The Blue Demons did cut down on their turnovers after that stretch, however, and, as the intensity of the game died down, started to cut into the deficit. But by then, the lead was too much to overcome.
With the loss, DePaul fell to 3-1 in the Big East and lost sole possession of first place in the conference. Tommy Hamilton IV was the highest scorer for DePaul with 12 points while the starting five combined for only 25 points.
Another key to the game that Purnell laid out beforehand was the need to keep Villanova off the backboard. The Blue Demons were out-gunned in this department as well, losing the rebound battle 34-32 and giving up 10 offensive rebounds to the Wildcats.
DePaul returns home to face Georgetown 8 p.m. Tuesday.