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DePaul ends 15-year drought against Villanova with 75-65 win

Dec 25, 2022; Omaha, Nebraska, USA; DePaul Blue Demons head coach Tony Stubblefield watches action against the Creighton Bluejays in the first half at CHI Health Center Omaha. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Da’Sean Nelson came off the bench to score a career-high 24 points as DePaul snapped a 22-game losing streak to Villanova with a 75-65 Big East win Tuesday night in Chicago.

Javan Johnson added 18 points, 7 rebounds and 3 steals for DePaul (8-9, 2-4 Big East), which defeated Villanova for the first time since Jan. 3, 2008. The Wildcats’ hex over the Blue Demons was the longest active streak among Power 6 conferences and one shy of the longest streak in Big East history.

Eric Dixon paced Villanova (8-9, 2-4) with 22 points and 10 rebounds — his seventh career double-double. Cam Whitmore contributed 16 points and Caleb Daniels added 12 points and six assists.

DePaul’s Yor Anei picked up two fouls in the first two minutes, which seemed ominous at the time. But Anei’s trip to the bench allowed Nelson to get into the game earlier than usual and he proceeded to control the paint with 14 first-half points on 7-of-8 shooting.

Nelson drove for two layups and hit a stepback jumper to fuel an 11-2 run late in the first half that gave DePaul a 28-23 advantage with 3:37 to go, but Villanova responded with eight straight points — capped by Daniels’ deep 3-pointer — and claimed a 31-30 lead at the break.

DePaul made the game’s defining run early in the second half as Johnson cashed two 3-pointers and a long jumper while Nelson contributed a rare 3-pointer and an assist on Philmon Gebrewhit’s 3-pointer to transform a 38-35 deficit into a 50-41 lead with 12:29 to go.

That forced Villanova to call a timeout to regroup. The Wildcats worked to get Dixon a dunk on their first possession out of the timeout and Whitmore added a 3-pointer and a driving layup, but Umoja Gibson (10 points) answered each of those baskets with 3-pointers to restore an eight-point lead.

Villanova kept whittling away and had one chance to take the lead, but Brandon Slater’s 3-pointer went off the rim with 4:47 to play. DePaul rushed downcourt and Nelson spied Gebrewhit on the opposite wing for a 3-pointer that gave the Blue Demons a 61-56 lead with 4:22 left.

The Wildcats never had the ball again with a chance to tie or take the lead. Daniels missed three contested 3-pointers in one possession during the final minute with DePaul holding a 68-63 edge.

–Field Level Media