Brunson leads No. 2 Villanova past last-place DePaul, 75-62
ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) Ho-hum, just more of the same for loaded Villanova.
Another homecoming for Jalen Brunson was no big deal.
Brunson scored 18 points, Josh Hart had 16 and the second-ranked Wildcats cruised to a 75-62 victory against lowly DePaul on Monday night.
”In a game like this, they came out and pressured us, and your point guard has got to run the show,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. ”Jalen did a great job mixing up driving (and) finding people. When you’re driving the ball physically and get fouled, that can take off some of the pressure.”
Brunson, a former Illinois prep star from nearby Lincolnshire, went 4 for 8 from the field and 8 for 9 at the free throw line. The sophomore also contributed four assists, four rebounds and three steals, brushing off any talk of increased pressure while playing in front of family and friends from his hometown.
”I was just focused on playing for my teammates and coaches. Honestly, it didn’t play a factor at all,” Brunson said. ”I looked at it as just another game as a team.”
Villanova (25-2, 12-2 Big East) played without Darryl Reynolds for the second straight game due to a rib injury, but the defending national champions still had more than enough to put away last-place DePaul (8-18, 1-12). Reynolds, a senior forward who started the Wildcats’ first 25 games, is day to day.
Mikal Bridges scored 15 points in Villanova’s sixth straight victory, and Kris Jenkins finished with 13.
”Even now, with a shortened bench, they played really, really well together,” DePaul coach Dave Leitao said.
The Blue Demons shot 38 percent (22 for 58) from the field in their ninth straight loss. They also committed 14 turnovers, leading to 16 points for the opportunistic Wildcats.
DePaul made Villanova work all the way to the very end in a 68-65 road loss on Dec. 28, but the rematch was no contest.
Villanova grabbed control with an 11-1 run in the first half and then poured it on as DePaul repeatedly clanged shots off the rim and backboard. Brunson made a couple of 3-pointers from the same corner to help the Wildcats open a 33-16 lead with 3:16 left.
Brunson drew an ill-advised foul on Chris Harrison-Docks near midcourt in the final seconds and hit two foul shots to make it 39-18 at the break. The Blue Demons had more turnovers (nine) than field goals (seven) at halftime.
”It felt like we had a lot of wasted possessions,” Harrison-Docks said. ”We took some bad shots.”
Villanova let up a bit in the second part of the second half, but it was long over by that point. Bridges’ dunk made it 48-21 with 13:03 left for the Wildcats’ biggest lead.
Harrison-Docks led DePaul with 18 points. Eli Cain finished with 12 on 4-for-13 shooting.
Villanova reached 25 wins for the fourth straight season and the 12th time in the history of the program. It also improved to 122-15 since the start of the 2013-14 season.
Villanova: With Brunson and Jenkins leading the way, the Wildcats enjoyed a huge advantage at the line. They made 26 of 32 foul shots, compared to 10 for 16 for DePaul. The Wildcats also had 12 assists on 21 field goals.
DePaul: Leitao is in the second season of his second stint at the school, and there is plenty of work to do. The Blue Demons have lost their last 14 games against the Wildcats.
Villanova closes out a three-game road trip at Seton Hall on Saturday afternoon.
DePaul visits No. 24 Butler on Sunday afternoon.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap