Villanova is trying to get its Big East season back on track after a rough start. A matchup against surprising DePaul may provide yet another challenge, however.
Scottie Reynolds and the No. 25 Wildcats (11-3, 1-2) look to avoid a season sweep by the Blue Demons (7-8, 3-1), who visit the Pavilion on Wednesday.
DePaul beat then-No. 17 Villanova 84-76 on Jan. 3 in both teams’ conference opener. The Wildcats rebounded to defeat then-No. 13 Pittsburgh three days later, but they dropped six spots in the polls this week after losing 69-66 to Cincinnati on Saturday.
Villanova looks to rebound against a DePaul team that has gotten off to a surprisingly good start in conference play after a mediocre stretch earlier in the season. The Blue Demons are 3-1 in Big East play for the first time in school history. They have been 3-1 in league play three times (1991-92, 1999-2000 and 2004-05), while members of Conference USA.
Reynolds, who is Villanova’s leading scorer and the reigning Big East rookie of the year, and the Wildcats hope to get some revenge. He is coming off one of the best games of his career when he scored a season-high 32 in the loss to Cincinnati.
Reynolds had been held to a combined 15 points the previous two games— including 11 in the loss to DePaul, but despite the big numbers he put up Saturday, he missed two crucial shots in the final 30 seconds with the game on the line.
Coach Jay Wright said, however, that Reynolds shouldn’t shoulder the blame, and that he was pleased to see his star sophomore snap out of his recent scoring slump.
“He was great,” Wright said. “He was a leader. You saw Scottie Reynolds tonight. It was good to have him back, but we have to be a team.”
Reynolds wasn’t the only player to miss late in the game. Freshman Corey Fisher, who finished with 13 points, missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with six seconds remaining.
Fisher had one of his best performances of the season in the loss to DePaul with a season-high 23 points. The Blue Demons built an early 10-point lead, placed six players in double figures, shut down Reynolds and led by as many as 16 points.
That game was part of DePaul’s turnaround. The Blue Demons entered conference play with the worst record among the 16 Big East teams, but they have won five of their last six, with the only loss coming against then-No. 7 Georgetown on Jan. 8.
DePaul rebounded from that loss on Saturday, winning 60-54 at St. John’s thanks to another balanced scoring effort. Freshman Dar Tucker led the Blue Demons with 16 points off the bench while Mac Koshwal and Draelon Burns added 10 points each. Wesley Green chipped in nine points and a career-high 12 rebounds.
Tucker scored seven points during a 16-0 run in the second half which put DePaul up for good.
Villanova leads the all-time series against DePaul 10-8. The Blue Demons won their visit to the Pavilion last season, 73-65.