Villanova, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The surprising DePaul Blue Demons go in search of their fourth straight Big East Conference win when they tangle with the eighth-ranked Villanova Wildcats on Saturday afternoon.
DePaul opened the season at 6-1, but then dropped six in a row prior to the start of Big East play. At 6-7, it appeared as if the Blue Demons were in for another disappointing run in conference, but wins over Marquette (61-58), Xavier (71-68) and Creighton (70-60), the last taking place on the road, has the team brimming with confidence. As a result, DePaul is 3-0 to start Big East action for the first time since joining the conference for the 2005-06 season.
Unfortunately for the visitors from the Windy City, they are challenging one of the top teams in the country, as Villanova has won 14 of its first 15 games, including all nine played in front of the hometown faithful. The Wildcats had streaked out to a 13-0 start before suffering their first loss at Seton Hall last weekend, but the team responded by notching a 90-72 win over No. 24 St. John's in New York City on Tuesday.
Villanova owns an 18-8 lead in the all-time series with DePaul, and the Wildcats have won the last eight meetings.
Forrest Robinson drained six 3-pointers en route to a game-high 20 points, as DePaul won at Creighton by double digits on Wednesday night. Myke Henry added 11 points for the Blue Demons, who went 11-of-22 from beyond the arc and 15- of-20 at the free-throw line to keep the Bluejays at bay. DePaul's defensive effort held the home team to 35.1 percent field goal efficiency, while also laying claim to a 37-29 rebounding advantage.
Henry is netting 13.4 ppg to lead four players in double figures for a DePaul squad that in producing 73.4 ppg thanks to shooting efforts that come in at .452 overall, .370 from downtown and .746 at the charity stripe. Conversely, opponents are putting up 72.9 ppg, despite shooting just 30.6 percent 3-point land. The Blue Demons, who also rely heavily on guys like Billy Garrett (13.1 ppg, 3.8 apg), Tommy Hamilton (12.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg) and Jamee Crockett (11.9 ppg) to make consistent contributions, are in the red in both rebounding (-4.1) and turnover (-0.2) margin.
Jay Wright earned his 300th career victory in Villanova's recent triumph over St. John's, as his team used an impressive second half to break open what had been a close game at the break. The Wildcats knocked down 69 percent of their field goal attempts over the final 20 minutes, and that included a 7-of-12 showing from 3-point range. Overall, VU finished at 55.7 percent for the game, and it drained 10 treys, three of which were credited to Darrun Hilliard, who finished with a team-high 21 points. Dylan Ennis tallied 15 points and nine rebounds, while Daniel Ochefu logged a double-double with 13 points and 13 boards, and Josh Hart came off the bench to chip in 10 points. A massive 41-21 rebounding advantage helped the 'Cats earn the satisfying road win.
Villanova is averaging 76.9 ppg, and it boasts five double-digit scorers led by Hilliard with his 13.0 ppg. Each of the others net between 10.2 and 10.7 ppg, and the team as a whole is hitting its field goals at a 47.1 percent clip, while allowing foes to connect on only 40.4 percent of their total shots. The 'Cats have been especially tough when it comes to defending the 3- pointer, yielding a mere 29.1 percent success rate to the opposition. They own favorable margins in both rebounding (+4.1) and turnovers (+4.2). Ochefu is averaging a near double-double by accounting for 10.3 points and 9.0 caroms per contest.