ROSEMONT, Ill. — A day after rising to the top spot in the Associated Press poll for the first time in program history, No. Villanova showed DePaul why it is also No. 1 in the Big East in opponent scoring.
The Wildcats entered the day first in the Big East and No. 7 nationally in points allowed, and they gave the Blue Demons fits Tuesday, rolling to a one-sided 86-59 victory on the back of a tremendous defensive effort.
DePaul struggled to score from the very outset of the game, although a late offensive flurry from the Blue Demons made the final offensive output slightly less ugly.
For most of the night, DePaul looked lost on offense, tossing up bricks and giving away 19 turnovers. Even senior forward Myke Henry, who put up scoring numbers of 27 and 22 points against Providence and Creighton respectively last w
eek, struggled to get baskets. Henry finished with just nine points on 3-of-12 shooting. It was his first single-digit scoring output since December.
Junior guard Billy Garrett Jr., who is second on the team in scoring behind Henry, made just two shots.
It was the fourth straight game Villanova held its opponent to 60 points or less.
“Defensively, they just crowd the basketball, they crowd the floor,” DePaul coach Dave Leiato said of Villanova. “They change… defenses. Sometimes they’ll start in a man, go to zone. Start in a zone, go to man. They got their three quarter court (trap) that throws you off balance, slows the game down which is kind of they way they like it. And it just keeps you continually off balance.”
Villanova’s defense came in waves. Athletic Wildcats junior guard Josh Hart and senior guard Ryan Arcidiacono represent Villanova’s first line of attack defensive, and both average 1.3 steals per game.
Meanwhile, imposing senior forward Daniel Ochefu roams the paint for the Wildcats. He averages 1.9 blocks and had a pair against DePaul to go along with two steals.
Ochefu was playing for the first time in three games after sustaining a concussion Jan. 24 against Providence.
“Ochefu’s big,” Leitao said. “He’s a man.”
With Ochefu back, DePaul needed to play a clean offensive game against Villanova.
“We were just turning the ball over, not making the right reads, taking selfish shots,” DePaul freshman Eli Cain said.
Cain resisted the idea that Villanova did anything special defensively, and was instead quick to point the finger at his team’s own mistakes.
Perhaps DePaul’s offensive struggles were the combination of an elite defense and a scuffling offense. The Blue Demons topped 70 points only once in the last six games, scoring 77 points in their upset win over Providence last Tuesday.
Villanova held DePaul scoreless during a stretch that spanned the final 1:41 of the first half and the opening 4:54 of the second half.
During the defensive clampdown, Villanova outscored DePaul 19-0 and ran away with the game, turning an eight-point contest into a blowout.
“They play as well as a group as any team you’re going to play against,” Leitao said. “The record in the league shows it, and having a ranking of No.1 in the country shows it, too.”