All good things eventually come to an end.
For Villanova, her 22-game winning streak against DePaul was broken Tuesday night at Chicago’s Wintrust Arena.
The Blue Demons pulled away in the second half and held off the Cats for a 75–65 win, their first win over the Cats in 5,487 days.
DePaul’s last defeat of the Cats was on January 3, 2008, when they beat Villanova, who was ranked 17th in the world at the time, 84-76. “Cats” didn’t rank this time around, but it certainly upset me.
The Cats were late collecting some buckets and scaring DePaul, but that wasn’t enough as time was running out and DePaul managed to cling on.
“Hats off to DePaul, they came out and executed their game plan,” said Villanova manager Kyle Neptune. “Their kids played very hard and had timely and tough shots.”
With a second-half foul call to trim the margin just seconds before the half, the Blue Demons turned the tide of the game after a close first half with the ‘Cats clinging to a narrow 31-30 lead at the break. A massive 15-3 run lasting just over five minutes.
Javan Johnson hit back-to-back shots that ignited a big run and gave the Blue Demons the lead for good.
The game-changing stretch was capped off with Philmon Gebrewit’s Second Chance Bucket.
Neptune said, “We were resilient in the first half, we had a few stops along the way in the first half, but unfortunately the second half went well.”
Bucket urged Villanova to time out, saying ‘The Cats came out strong from the break on Eric Dixon’s dunk but couldn’t generate the momentum to overtake DePaul.
Villanova struggled with turnovers, spitting the ball out 14 times, but DePaul took advantage and scored 19 points from the turnovers.
The Blue Demons also heated up from the perimeter in the second half, and as a team they had a ferocious 7-of-13 shot (53.8%).
“They came out and made some tough threes, some deep ones, but what hurt us even more is that they made some tough twos in the stretch. I think,’ said Neptune.
Whenever the Wildcats seemed to be gaining momentum, the Blue Demons had a quick answer to crush it. We have reduced the deficit to 58-56 and that would be the closest result.
Villanova reached the line in the final minutes but stretched poorly from the floor, making just two of his last ten shooting attempts as a team in the final six minutes.
Nelson sealed the win with a series of free throws before the final buzzer sounded. This ended the night of his career fittingly, taking the role of leading Blue his Demons against the ‘Cats.
“He’s a good player. He’s turned around and beat guys over time,” Neptune said of Nelson. “He was stronger than us, he rode the rim and bullied us.”
Nelson finished with 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting and 8 rebounds. Johnson scored his 18th with 7 boards, 3 assists, 3 steals and 1 block from across the arc where he was 4/6. Eralpen had 11 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks. Umoja Gibson recorded his 10 points, 5 assists and 2 steals.
For Villanova, Dixon had a double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds on 8-of-13 shooting, but had a team-low plus-minus rating of -17.
“I thought he was good offensively,” Neptune said of Dixon. “He’s a burden in his 1-on-1s and Eric is very good when he can play good 1-1s.”
Cam Whitmore had 16 points, 2 steals and 4 turnovers. Caleb Daniels scored his 12 points, but overall he had 4-of-16 RBIs and shots from deep positions where he had 3-of-13 RBIs and had six assists. Chris Arcidiacono he had 3 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 turnover. Brandon Slater recorded 5 points, 6 boards and 4 turnovers.
‘Cats are below -.500 and are now 8-9 overall and 2-4 in Big East play. They will be back in action on Friday night when they resume their road trip at Hinkle Fieldhouse for their match against Butler. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 PM ET.