Jan. 8, 2012
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Three days after dropping its BIG EAST home opener to the University of South Florida, Villanova bounced back with an 87-71 victory over DePaul (10-5 overall, 1-2 BIG EAST) on Sunday afternoon at the Pavilion. The Wildcats are now 8-8 overall, 1-3 in conference action.
"It might be the understatement of the year, but that was a good win for us - much needed," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "We've been trying to teach these (juniors) how to be leaders. If we had seniors, you wouldn't have to do this but I'm asking them to act like they are 22 and have been playing for four years."
"Maalik, Cheek and Mouph just did a great job (today)."
Villanova broke out to a 7-0 lead just 1:26 into the contest, sparked by five points from junior Yarou and a deuce from Wayns. An old-fashioned 3-point play by Wayns extended the lead to 10-0 with 15:57 to play in the first half.
However, DePaul began denting the early edge midway through the half. A 3-point basket by Moses Morgan cut the edge to 20-18 with 10:15 to play and then a Blue Demon steal put Morgan back on the line four seconds later. He sank one of two to close the gap to 20-19.
But the Wildcats closed the half on a 28-17 surge to build a 48-36 lead at intermission. Villanova connected on 15-of-24 of its field goal attempts in the period to offset 14 turnovers. Wayns led the way with 13 points and six rebounds while Cheek added 11 points and Yarou nine.
Every time DePaul made a push to narrow the gap in the second half, Villanova had an answer. The full-court press applied by the Blue Demons throughout the contest caused the `Cats to commit their most turnovers in a game since 2003 (28). But VU was effective scoring in transition, which helped it connect on a season-high 56 percent of its field goal attempts.
DePaul closed to within 61-53 with 14:18 left and 67-59 with 9:50 on the clock. Yet in each instance Villanova scored the next points and pulled away to the 16-point triumph.
"DePaul is a tough team," said Wright. "They keep coming after you so I was proud of our effort."
A 45-23 rebounding advantage also was a huge boost for the Wildcats on the day. Freshmen Markus Kennedy and Yarou each contributed seven rebounds apiece and every Villanova player who saw action picked up at least one carom.
"The thing about the South Florida game for us is that (prior to that), we were getting better and we took a step back that night," Wright stated. "But we had to do it to get some things straight within in our family and it was worth it.
"We also knew that maybe we had knocked ourselves so much back that we couldn't get this win today. It was possible. This definitely makes us feel better but I think we would have been OK even if we hadn't gotten (this one). With these guys leading us, we can be good."
As for the turnovers, Wright credited DePaul.
"That's them," he noted. "They're used to playing that way and they are good that way. We're still trying to get our group together. We don't mind playing that way. I thought a lot of our guys made great plays in the open floor. That was a good challenge for us - it just kind of forced us to play basketball."
Wayns said maintaining an even keel wasn't difficult even after coming up short against the Bulls.
"We had two good days of practice," he said. "We weren't worried about our record - just wanted to keep getting better and I thought we did that."
NOTES: Kennedy and Johnson each established new season highs in minutes played with Kennedy logging 34 minutes and Johnson 33 ... JayVaughn Pinkston added 13 points in 18 minutes ... Brandon Young led the Blue Demons with 22 points and six assists ... DePaul's next test is Tuesday at Seton Hall.