The DePaul men’s basketball team hosted the top-ranked Villanova Wildcats one week removed from an upset victory over the No. 11 Providence Friars. Unfortunately for the Blue Demons, there was no magic in the air on Tuesday night at Allstate Arena.
DePaul was thoroughly outmatched by the Wildcats in a 59-86 blowout defeat, the team’s worst loss this season. Five Villanova players scored in double-figures, with junior guard Josh Hart recording a game-high 18 points.
Senior forward Daniel Ochefu returned for the Wildcats after missing four games due to concussion protocol, and provided his team with a significant edge in the post. Ochefu compiled 11 points and six rebounds, and played a large role in containing DePaul forward Myke Henry, who finished the night with just nine points on 3-of-12 shooting.
“From an efficiency standpoint, I know that we have not played a team as efficient as Villanova is on both ends of the floor,” DePaul head coach Dave Leitao said. “They’ve got a lot of facets to their game. They have great guard play. Ochefu coming back was huge, and gave them that low-post presence that they’ve had all season long. And they just really support each other.”
While Villanova displayed efficiency on Tuesday night, the Blue Demons did not, finishing the game with a minus-10 turnover differential.
“I thought it was anticipation,” Leitao said regarding his team’s turnover issues. “They could read our eyes really well. We had 12 at halftime, 19 for the game. Anytime we have more than 14, 15 turnovers, it hasn’t been good for us. We shot ourselves in the foot. When you’re playing the No. 1 team in the country, you better bring your A-game, and if you turn it over 19 times that doesn’t mean you played your A-game.”
Villanova, who was playing as the No. 1 team in the AP Top 25 for the first time in school history, was in control from the opening tip. The Wildcats started the game on a 16-2 run and never looked back, leading for all but 36 seconds of the contest.
“I was concerned, just because it was the first time that we ever had to go through that,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “Everyone was trying to talk about being No. 1, and we were just trying to talk about DePaul. I really credit our two seniors, Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu. We have a really mature team. We followed our gameplan really well, and that shows our level of concentration.”
Despite its slow performance to start the game, DePaul found itself with striking distance after freshman guard Eli Cain completed an and-one to close the gap to 37-29 with 1:41 remaining in the first half.
That opportunity quickly faded.
The Blue Demons gave up four points before the end of the half, with a Mikal Bridges put-back off a steal as time expired extending the Villanova lead to 12. The Wildcats connected on three consecutive 3-point attempts to start the second half, rattling off a 15-0 run before a Tommy Hamilton IV three-pointer gave DePaul its first points of the half.
“They had a lot of ball screens,” Cain said. “They’ve got a lot of good big men. We were guarding their big men and leaving guys open for threes.”
DePaul never found its rhythm down the stretch, and the end result was a 27-point defeat. The Blue Demons will look to rebound next Tuesday on the road at St. Johns.