ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) — Corey Fisher refused to let this one slip away.
The senior guard scored a career-high 34 points, nailing the tying 3-pointer near the end of regulation, and No. 15 Villanova beat DePaul 77-75 in overtime Saturday.
Maalik Wayns added 17, Mouphtaou Yarou grabbed 15 rebounds, and the Wildcats escaped with a tough win over the Big East’s last-place team. DePaul had dropped 12 straight overall and 25 in a row against conference opponents before beating Providence on Thursday.
Fisher simply carried the Wildcats, converting acrobatic drives and burying shots from the perimeter. He hit 5 of 8 3-pointers, none bigger than the one he nailed with six seconds left in regulation that tied the game at 62.
“I was just trying to make plays on defense,” Fisher said. “We weren’t worried too much about offense. We were just trying to play hard. In the huddle, coaches kept telling us to grind it out.”
Jeremiah Kelly led DePaul (7-19, 1-13) with 25 points, hitting 7 of 13 3-pointers. Cleveland Melvin scored 16 and Moses Morgan added 15, but the Blue Demons came up just a little short.
“We came up short, but we’re just proving to people that we can play with anybody in this league,” Morgan said.
Even so, Kelly said, “It hurts. It hurts a lot.”
Villanova (21-6, 9-5) was leading 70-65 when Kelly hit a 3 with 2:41 remaining. It was 74-70 when DePaul’s Brandon Young connected from long range with 27 seconds left.
Fisher, whose previous high was 28 at Connecticut in January, buried two free throws with 17 seconds left. After Young missed a 3-pointer, Fisher hit another free throw with 7.2 remaining to make it 77-73.
“Overtime, we just kind of fumbled some plays,” said DePaul coach Oliver Purnell, whose team got outrebounded 50-36. “We kind of showed our inexperience a little bit. We turned it over, fumbled some plays. Guys fought hard, they’re playing better. It’s a tough one to take. They’re hurting in the locker room, but that’s the way we want it to be.”
This probably wasn’t what the Wildcats had in mind after an ugly 60-57 win over Seton Hall that came on the heels of two close losses to Rutgers and Pittsburgh.
It certainly didn’t help that they were again without Corey Stokes. The team’s second-leading scorer missed his third straight game because of a turf toe injury on his left foot. Coach Jay Wright said he might be ready for Monday’s game against Syracuse. If not, he’ll likely return against St. John’s on Feb. 26.
“It’s just hard to score,” Wright said. “Corey Stokes is always a guy that you know is just going to stretch the defense. Even if he’s not making shots, they’re going to guard him no matter how far out he is, and it creates space for everybody. Without him, anybody else on our team, they’ll just say, ‘Go ahead, let those guys beat us.”‘
Even so, this figured to be an easier afternoon for Villanova. Instead, it turned into something else.
Villanova was leading 55-50 after two free throws by Dominic Cheek with 3:18 left in regulation, but Kelly responded by nailing a wild 3-pointer. Melvin hit 1 of 2 at the foul line before Tony Freeland hit another one to tie it at 55 with 1:17 remaining.
Fisher then raced the other way and got fouled, burying both shots to put Villanova back on top, and he scored again with 38 seconds left after Kelly tied it.
The Blue Demons weren’t finished.
Cheek turned the ball over, and after a timeout, Kelly struck again, nailing a 3-pointer to give DePaul a 60-59 lead. Morgan added two free throws with 12 seconds left, but Fisher forced OT when he buried his 3-pointer.
“I was just trying to get in the lane and probably kick it out,” he said. “But I came off the screen, and I know the big man didn’t want to let me drive. So he gave me the space and I just raised up, hit the shot.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)