Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Villanova / DePaul Series History, As the Wildcats and Blue Demons Battle at Pavilion on Wednesday

To the Wildcat faithful-

With the #8 Wildcats' home opener at the Pavilion, against the DePaul Blue Demons, on Wednesday night, here's an extended look back at the series history:

All-time, Villanova leads, 12-8; as members of the Big East, the Wildcats lead, 4-2.

Given DePaul's distant location in Chicago, the schools have met surprisingly often.  The first battle was all the way back on January 21, 1939, at the now-defunct Convention Hall/Civic Center in Philadelphia's University City neighborhood.  DePaul won, 36-29.  The schools then did not meet, for almost a quarter of a century...

However, despite the distance between Chicago and Philadelphia, the schools met regularly, from 1963 through 1979.  On March 14, 1963, Villanova defeated DePaul in the NIT at Madison Square Garden, 63-51, at a time when the NIT was still highly prestigious.  It was highly selective, as well; there were only 12 teams invited, and the entire tournament was in Madison Square Garden!

The top four teams received byes, and both Villanova and DePaul were part of the remaining eight, who had to play an opening round game.  The Wildcats' victory advanced them to the quarterfinals; where they upset the top seed, Wichita State.  The run ended in the semifinals, however, when they fell to the fourth seed, Canisius.  Bu the Wildcats took third place, topping Marquette in the consolation round.

That 1963 team was coached by Jack Kraft, in only his second season at the helm.  The starters were Eric Erickson, Wali Jones, Jim McMonagle, Jim O'Brien, and Jim Washington.

Some Regular Season Home-and-Home Series Were Played From 1965-79

Perhaps because of the 1963 NIT, the schools consistently faced each other in a home-and-home series, for the next 15 years.  At the time, Villanova was playing nearly all of its prominent opponents at the historic Palestra, on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania; the Blue Demons made half a dozen visits there.

Villanova won the first two regular-season games, lost the Palestra game in December 1966, and then reeled off five straight victories - at that point, Villanova had won seven of the eight regular-season contests.  But then the tide turned, and Ray Meyer's DePaul teams began to dominate the series.  There were four meetings between 1973 and 1979, all won by DePaul, including two at the Palestra.

The series lay dormant for over 25 years, from 1979 until 2005-06, when DePaul joined the Big East.  I speculate that the formation of the original Big East in 1979, which Villanova officially joined in its second season, was the reason for the demise of the long working relationship with DePaul - the games just weren't available any longer, due to the conference slate to which Villanova was now committed.

So looking at the more recent series history, as Big East foes:

Saturday, February 11, 2006 - Allstate Arena - #4 Villanova 61, DePaul 51

The #4 Wildcats enter the game at DePaul's Allstate Arena, with a glittering record of 19-1 overall, 8-1 Big East.  The host Blue Demons did not appear to be much of a challenge, as they entered the contest with a record of 2-8 Big East, 9-12 overall.

And add to the mix, the fact that #1 Connecticut was visiting the Wachovia Center in South Philadelphia for a showdown, just two days later.  Avoiding a look past DePaul would be difficult for the Wildcats.  And so it proved.

It was a tough game for Villanova.  Although the Wildcats managed a 61-51 victory, it was not without pitfalls.  The Wildcats had opened a 17-point lead at one point, despite not having Mike Nardi available, due to tonsillitis.  But DePaul fought its way back into the game, and trailed just 40-37 midway through the second half, after an 11-0 run culminated in a dunk from Wilson Chandler.

The Wildcats turned to sophomore Kyle Lowry, who keyed a 15-3 run, to permit Villanova to retake control.  Lowry ultimately finished with 15 points and seven rebounds; Randy Foye scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead the Wildcats.

Villanova shot only 35.6% from the floor and had only six assists; DePaul's cause was not helped by their 37.5% from the floor, or their dismal 10-23 performance from the line.  Leading the way for the Blue Demons was Karron Clarke, with 14 points and 15 rebounds; he was the only DePaul player to reach double figures. 

January 6, 2007 - The Pavilion - DePaul 73, Villanova 65

As I wrote at the time - here is my full story from that game....
DePaul was paced by Sammy Mejia's 23 points, Wilson Chandler's double-double (18 points, 11 rebounds), as well as 13 points from Draelon Burns (a great name!). For Villanova, Scottie Reynolds continues to play well, scoring 25 points. Curtis Sumpter (15 points) and Mike Nardi (13 points) also reached double figures.
March 7, 2007 - Madison Square Garden - Big East Tournament Opening Round - #8 seed Villanova 75, #9 seed DePaul 67

This was the first-ever Big East tournament game for DePaul, even though it was their second season in the conference, as the Blue Demons hadn't qualified for the conference tournament during their rough, initial voyage.

As I wrote at the time - here is my full story from that game....
Villanova’s victory was steady, well-played, and fundamentally sound. The game plan was clear: get the ball to Scottie Reynolds (playing in his first BE tournament) and Curtis Sumpter (playing in his last). The duo took 35 of the Wildcats’ 46 field goal attempts and combined to score 33 of the 42 Villanova points that did not come from the line. Reynolds finished with 29 points, Sumpter with 25. Dante Cunningham was the only other Wildcat to reach double figures, scoring a dozen points, but 10 of those 12 came from the line. He just missed a double-double with nine rebounds.  
January 3, 2008 - Allstate Arena - DePaul 84, #16 Villanova 76

The Blue Demons pulled an upset at home, downing the 16th-ranked Wildcats as 2008 began, in the Big East opener for both teams.  DePaul was only 5-7 entering Big East play, the worst record among the entire 16-team membership, but triumphed nonetheless.  No fewer than six Blue Demons reached double digits: Burns (20 points), Clarke (14 points), Wesley Green, Will Walker, and Cliff Clinkscales (12 points each), and Mac Koshwal (11 points).  For Villanova, then-freshman Corey Fisher scored 23 points, Dante Cunningham adding 16 points, and Scottie Reynolds contributing 11.

January 16, 2008 - The Pavilion - #25 Villanova 76, DePaul 69

The Wildcats overcame a huge, 16-point first-half deficit and avoided a second upset by DePaul in just 13 days at the Pavilion.  DePaul still led 57-50 with 9:49 to go, but Villanova, now ranked #25, used a 15-0 run to seize control of the contest in the second half.  Leading the way was Reynolds, whose 21 points included a dagger triple with 30 seconds left to give Villanova a 72-66 lead, and two free throws with 13 seconds to play.  The other standout Wildcats were forwards Antonio Pena, who scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds, and Cunningham, who added 14 points and 13 rebounds.

For DePaul, Burns exploded for a 27-point night; Dar Tucker added 18 points off the bench.

February 25, 2009 - Allstate Arena - #10 Villanova 74, DePaul 72

Nobody would wish a winless Big East slate on anyone, particularly when it hasn't happened in 15 years. Unfortunately, the #10 Wildcats came unpleasantly close to permitting DePaul from escaping that ignoble record on Wednesday, February 25, in Rosemont, Illinois. The Wildcats were down eight at halftime and still down by one with as late as the 12:23 mark in the second half, prior to escaping Chicagoland with a far-too-suspenseful victory over woeful, winless DePaul. The Blue Demons entered the game trapped in the Hades of the Big East, with a 0-14 conference slate, 8-19 record overall...

Villanova "improved" - if that can be said - its record to 11-4 Big East, 23-5 overall, and should remain in the top 10 with a victory over Georgetown on Saturday. DePaul "fell" - likewise, if that can be said, in light of the fact that they lost a two-point game to the #10 team nationally- to 8-20 overall, as the team's nightmare season continues. Although the Wildcats' five-point lead was shaved to two by a three-pointer by Dar Tucker at the buzzer, the narrowness of the score accurately reflects the margin of the game, one in which DePaul led for a good portion of play. And while it's still a loss, it's a game that DePaul can view as a highlight of an otherwise very arduous season, in the nation's toughest conference.
As for Wednesday's Pavilion clash - there will be a preview, so please check back...

Go Wildcats!
E-mail: villanova.viewpoint@yahoo.com

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