Early Exit for DePaul in Big East Tournament

It was a long climb uphill for the DePaul Blue Demons, a climb that they could not reach the top of, in Wednesday's Big East Tournament first round game against Villanova. DePaul would take Villanova's best shot and get back in the game only to waver each time Villanova had an answer, losing 75-67. DePaul now drops to 18-13 overall and the loss will likely delegate the Demons to the NIT.

DePaul would fight to get out of every hole they dug on the afternoon. Villanova stormed out to an 8-0 lead, determined to take the sails out of DePaul's NCAA Tournament hopes. However, DePaul answered with a 6-0 run to get right back in the game. The first half was nip and tuck from then on out with DePaul keeping the halftime deficit at a basket, trailing 28-26, never being down by more than seven.

DePaul had trouble containing Villanova's potent duo of Curtis Sumpter and Scottie Reynolds. In fact those two combined for 24 of Villanova's 28 first half points. The pair had to pick up the slack as senior leader Mike Nardi played sparingly (two minutes) with a calf strain.

As it was in the first half, the same scenario happened to start the second half. Villanova caught fire again. Two quick three pointers by Sumpter and a Reynolds jumper extended the lead to ten, forcing DePaul head coach Jerry Wainwright to call a timeout.

"I thought we responded" Wainwright said of the runs Villanova kept throwing at DePaul. "It takes energy to come back, and we were in a position, I thought to begin the second half. They made two great plays, but again we missed two shots, and instead of being down eight. If your down four, you're hanging in there."

Just like in the first half DePaul responded with yet another run, chopping the lead down to three on a Draelon Burns three pointer to make it 40-37 with 14:15 to go.

In what was a recurring theme, Nova had an answer. A Reynolds three pointer and a Dante Cunningham layup pushed the lead back to eight at 45-37.

In a day where DePaul had no quit, they again chipped away and got the game back to within three points on two different occasions, the last being 53-50 at the 7:32 mark on a miraculous driving layup by Wilson Chandler.

From then on the game was won on the free throw line for Villanova. Villanova shot an astonishing 33 of 38 from the charity stripe, connecting on 18 of their last 22 to seal the win.

"I was trying to stay aggressive,"replied Reynolds, when asked about his efficiency from the free throw line (connecting on 13 of 16 from the foul line)." A switch turned on in me where I just wanted to be more aggressive on the ball. It ended up where I was going to the line, and, you know, it worked out, I guess."

After the game, Wainwright was emotional expressing that the urgency was there and that shots would not fall and Villanova capitalized making their's and their free throws. "I will say this. They were ready to play. You've got to take open shots and we didn't make them. It's not a magic game. They (Villanova) were more efficient than we were, they took advantage."

Wainwright almost had to hold back tears in defense of his players. "Our kids did a great job. They were ready to play."

Reynolds led all scorers with 29 points. That matched the highest point total ever by a Villanova player in a Big East tournament game. Kerry Kittles also scored 29 vs. Providence back in 1995.

Sumpter also chipped in with 25 points to make up the bulk of Villanova's scoring.

DePaul was paced by Sammy Mejia's 20 points. Two other Demons scored in double figures, both Burns and Chandler had 18 points apiece.

Villanova goes on to take on the top seeded Georgetown Hoyas in the quarterfinals tomorrow afternoon while DePaul's fate will likely be sealed with an NIT invite.

"I don't think we are done playing," Wainwright responded concerning his team's post-season chances. "I would hope our season is not over. I know our guys would like to keep on playing."

Official Box Score

Postgame Audio

Postgame Video

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