VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) — Villanova, as it should, has a knack for making wins easy when just about every shot is falling.
James Bell had 17 points and eight rebounds, Ryan Arcidiacono scored 14 points, and the sixth-ranked Wildcats won their fifth straight game, 88-62 over DePaul on Saturday.
The Wildcats (16-1, 5-0 Big East) made a whopping 19 of 26 shots (73 percent) in the second half as they continue to steamroll through the revamped conference. Villanova tied a season low with five turnovers.
Daniel Ochefu had 14 points on 6 for 6 shooting and six rebounds, and Josh Hart hit three 3-pointers and scored 13 points for the Wildcats.
“My coaches and my teammates do a great job being confident in myself,” Ochefu said. “I just respond to them having confidence in me.”
The Wildcats built a halftime lead without a point from their two leading scorers, JayVaughn Pinkston (16.1) and Darrun Hilliard (13.9).
Pinkston’s first basket was a crowd-pleasing dunk that gave the Wildcats a 40-28 lead. That followed Ochefu’s three-point play and Arcidiacono’s pull-up jumper that helped the Wildcats start to pull away.
Hilliard, in a 1-for-17 skid, hit a jumper for his first basket of the game, helping Villanova hit 7 of 8 shots to build a 13-point lead.
Arcidiacono and Hart connected on consecutive 3s midway through the half and Bell and Hart did the same to pile on late in the second for a 75-52 lead.
Arcidiacono tweaked his left knee in practice Thursday, then sat out the following day. He wore a protective sleeve on his left knee.
About the only sore point for Villanova came late in the game when Hart was hit with a flagrant foul and a technical.
“It gets chippy at times,” Hart said. “It’s just how you respond.”
The Blue Demons (10-9, 2-4) entered on a rare two-game conference winning streak, but failed to get three straight for the first time since 2006-07. Brandon Young led them with 13 points.
The Wildcats had much more fun scoring on 13 of their first 18 possessions in the second than they did during a disjointed first half.
Coach Jay Wright was furious only minutes into the game, called a timeout and laid into the Wildcats. They were guilty of poor shot selection and shaky application of a press early, rare lapses for a sound team that has gone from unranked in the preseason to a comfortable spot in the top 10.
“I just had to remind them immediately, just work on this, just change this,” Wright said. “Let’s get back to it.”
Hilliard (0 for 5) and Pinkston (0 for 3) failed to score a basket in the first half and were bailed out by Arcidiacono and Ochefu’s (combined 8 for 12) sharp shooting. The Wildcats got away with Hilliard and Pinkston’s first-half ineffectiveness against DePaul. They might not be so lucky against No. 20 Creighton on Monday at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center.
“They’re one of those teams that when you watch film, you get caught up and enjoy watching them play as opposed to thinking about how you’re going to beat them,” Wright said.
Wright said Ochefu kept the Wildcats afloat with the needed big basket or rebound
“He’s been carrying us defensively,” Wright said.
The Blue Demons beat Butler in double overtime and St. John’s to ride the rare Big East winning streak into town. The Blue Demons, who haven’t beat a top 10 team since Kansas on Dec. 2, 2006, hung around in the first half and only trailed 33-24 at the break. Like other teams before them, DePaul simply couldn’t match up with Villanova’s talent and depth and faded down the stretch.
“They deserve their ranking,” DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. “We’ve got to play defensively better, and that includes rebounding.”