Feb 9, 2016 11:46 PM
Villanova cruises by DePaul 86-59 in 1st game as No. 1 team
The Associated Press
ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) Josh Hart paced a balanced attack on offense. Darryl Reynolds and Daniel Ochefu patrolled the inside. Jalen Brunson and Kris Jenkins pitched in here and there.
In its first game as the nation's No. 1 team, Villanova looked the part in every way.
Hart had 18 points and Reynolds scored 12 of his 14 in the second half, leading the Wildcats to an easy 86-59 victory over DePaul on Tuesday night.
"Everyone was talking yesterday about being No. 1 and we just wanted to talk about DePaul," coach Jay Wright said. "I really credit our two seniors, Ryan (Arcidiacono) and Daniel, for their leadership to keep our guys focused. I think we have a pretty mature team."
Jenkins made three 3-pointers and finished with 13 points as the Wildcats (21-3, 11-1) rolled to their 13th win in their last 14 games. They moved two games clear of fifth-ranked Xavier for the Big East lead after the Musketeers lost 70-56 at Creighton.
Villanova turned 19 DePaul turnovers into 19 points in its debut in the top spot of The Associated Press' poll. The Wildcats had climbed to No. 2 on six occasions before Oklahoma and North Carolina lost last weekend, clearing the way for them to ascend to No. 1.
"It was kind of a good thing we got away from campus and that buzz," Hart said. "We're a family on the road and we didn't talk about it at all. We just focused on DePaul."
Wright's team looked quite comfortable on top of the heap, building a 36-16 advantage in points in the paint. Brunson, a freshman who starred at nearby Stevenson High School and heard lots of cheers all night long, had 11 points, and Ochefu scored 11 in his return after missing three games due to a concussion.
Eli Cain had 15 points for DePaul (8-16, 2-10), which has dropped four of five. Myke Henry added nine points and 11 rebounds, but was 3 for 12 from the field.
"Those turnovers hurt us," Henry said.
The Wildcats opened with a 16-2 run and led by at least seven points the rest of the way, turning in a very business-like performance in their 11th straight victory in the series.
Mikal Bridges' rebound basket made it 41-29 at halftime, and Villanova broke it open with 15 straight points at the start of the second half. The run began with three straight 3-pointers, two by Jenkins, and Brunson finished it off with six straight points.
DePaul coach Dave Leitao said Villanova was the most efficient team the Blue Demons had played this season.
"We're playing a program, and you can see it," he said. "All credit to Jay and obviously the 15 years of doing something at a high level. We played a program with a brand, and those guys believe wholeheartedly in that brand."
Brunson, who led Stevenson to a state title last season, was 4 for 8 from the field in 23 minutes. The 6-foot-3 guard had four assists and a steal.
"It felt weird," he said. "I definitely miss it out here but as soon as I stepped off the plane I knew it was a business trip and we had to focus with the guys and get this win."
Brunson's father is former Bulls guard Rick Brunson, who also served as an assistant coach with the NBA team.
Wright said he was surprised by Ochefu's performance. Ochefu had six rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals.
"He only practiced one day," Wright said. "We said to him before the game to just 'go as hard as you can and pace yourself.' I was shocked at his conditioning. I thought he was in great shape. He played 24 minutes, that's pretty good for being out that many days."
Villanova: Hart's jumper with 13:55 left made it 61-34 and moved the junior guard to 1,001 career points. He became the 61st player to reach the milestone with the Wildcats. ... Villanova improved to 7-0 in Big East road games this season.
DePaul: G Billy Garrett Jr. connected with 12:14 left in the first half to make it 700 straight games for the Blue Demons with at least one 3-pointer. ... DePaul dropped to 2-4 against ranked teams this season. ... DePaul's last victory over Villanova was an 84-76 win on Jan. 3, 2008.
Villanova hosts St. John's on Saturday night.
DePaul visits St. John's on Feb. 17.
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