DePaul’s upset bid falls short in overtime against Villanova


Photo courtesy of AP

Villanova’s Collin Gillespie dives for a loose ball with DePaul’s Charlie Moore during the second half in their game on Tuesday night in Villanova, Pa. Villanova won 79-75 in overtime.

DePaul and Villanova have faced each other 18 times since the last time the Blue Demons knocked off the Wildcats back in 2008 when DePaul still played at Allstate Arena. In those 18 meetings, Villanova has won each game by an average of 15 points with none of them coming close to being a “classic.” 

Then came Tuesday night, where DePaul and Villanova produced an epic thriller with the game going to overtime that had the Blue Demons thinking of an upset. But like the previous 18 meetings, the Wildcats found a way to defeat DePaul once again 79-75 at the Finneran Pavilion. 

DePaul came into Tuesday night game in desperate need of a conference win, as they are the only team in the Big East without a league win in three games. And for the first 15 minutes of the game, it looked like something special was brewing for the visitors. 

DePaul jumped out to a shocking 21-8 lead inside the first nine minutes on the back of their strong interior game, with 14 of their first 21 points coming inside the paint. Junior forward Jaylen Butz, who led the team in scoring against St. John’s on Saturday with 17 points, scored eight points in the first 10 minutes to lead the Blue Demons.

DePaul’s other star forward, Paul Reed, got off to a slow start in the scoring department with only six points in the first half, but he used his size advantage to grab rebounds for the Blue Demons — he went into the break with nine boards to lead all players. Reed, however, was more active on Tuesday against Villanova on both ends than he was versus St. John’s where he only finished with four points. 

With DePaul taking a 21-8 lead inside the first nine minutes, there was hope that the Blue Demons could build off their hot start and grow that advantage. Instead, DePaul did what they have become accustomed to doing this season, they allowed Villanova back into the game and surrendered a 22-7 run in the final 10 minutes of the first half to give the Wildcats a 30-28 lead going into halftime. During that run, junior guard Conor Gillespie scored eight straight points for the Wildcats to help them get back into the game.

Coming out of the break, Villanova knocked down two 3-pointers to increase their lead to six, 40-34. But Reed and Butz quickly tallied off six straight points for the Blue Demons to tie the game at 40 with just over 14 minutes to play in the game. 

Villanova, however, didn’t let that run by DePaul become anything bigger because the Wildcats then outscored the Blue Demons 19-9 in the next nine minutes. With most of DePaul’s roster struggling on offense against Villanova, junior guard Charlie Moore and Reed helped keep the Blue Demons afloat in the second half with 28 combined points.

Even with their best efforts to keep DePaul in the game, Jermiah Earl-Robinson hit two free-throws to put the Wildcats up 66-55 with just over two minutes to play and had most people thinking that DePaul was dead in the water.

That’s when DePaul rose from the ashes and pulled off the improbable in the final two minutes. The Blue Demons hit their last seven shots that sparked a 12-1 run, which ended with a driving layup by Moore to send the game into overtime. Senior guard Jalen Coleman-Lands also hit an important 3-point shot with 31 seconds to play to make it a 67-65 game. Then a turnover by Villanova gave DePaul one last chance to tie or take the lead, and Moore drove to the rim for an easy layup that added an extra five minutes to the game.

DePaul, however, couldn’t carry over that momentum into overtime as they missed their first two shots and allowed Villanova to take a 71-67 lead. With the Wildcats leading 73-69, Coleman-Lands hit another spectacular 3-point shot to cut the deficit to one. But Villanova responded with a layup from Jermaine Samuels to put them back up three. 

The Blue Demons had a chance to tie the game at 75, but Coleman-Lands failed to knock down a 3-pointer and that would virtually end DePaul’s upset bid. Moore finished the game with 29 points and six assists, while Reed bounced back with 18 points and 15 rebounds for his 13th double-double this season. 

DePaul, who is the worst free-throw shooting time in the Big East this season, shot 6-of-10 from from the charity stripe, while Villanova — who is the best free-throw shooting team in the conference — went 18-of-21 in that area. 

With the loss, DePaul falls to 12-5 on the season and 0-4 in Big East play. The Blue Demons will return home on Saturday to face No. 5 Butler and begin a three-game homestand that will also feature games against No. 25 Creighton and St. John’s.