ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) — Ryan Arcidiacono scored all 18 of his points in the second half and No. 7 Villanova beat DePaul 68-55 on Saturday to take the Big East lead.
Villanova (19-2, 6-2) moved a half-game ahead of Providence atop the conference. After a 3-0 start, DePaul (11-12, 5-5) lost for the fifth time in its last seven conference games.
The Wildcats opened the second half on a 14-4 tear to turn a six-point deficit into a 45-41 advantage in little more than 7 minutes. Arcidiacono scored eight points in the burst, highlighted by a four-point play that tied it at 41. Josh Hart followed with a layup to give the Wildcats the lead for good.
JayVaughn Pinkston added 14 points for Villanova, making 10 free throws without a miss. Darrun Hilliard finished with 11 points.
Billy Garrett led DePaul with 14 points and eight assists. Tommy Hamilton and Forrest Robinson added nine points apiece.
DePaul shot 52 percent from the field and had 17 bench points in the first half. But the Blue Demons struggled in half-court sets in the second half, when they missed eight of their first nine field goal tries.
Villanova won the battle of the backboards (35-18) for the first time in four games. It was outrebounded only three times in its previous 17 games.
The Wildcats appeared to show the effects of a five-day layoff and led only briefly in the first half. They were down 28-17 when Blue Demons forward Jamee Crockett sank a layup with 6:55 left in the half.
In stark contrast to the game between the teams three weeks earlier, DePaul did not commit a turnover in the opening 10-plus minutes. In the first matchup, Villanova’s pressure defense forced 15 turnovers in an 81-64 victory at home.
But the Wildcats responded with eight straight points to get back in the game. Reserve guard Phil Booth scored six points and forward Daniel Ochefu added four more in the final 7 minutes of the half, and the visitors pulled to 37-31 at the break.
TIP-INS Villanova: The Wildcats were the unanimous pick to win the Big East title in the preseason coaches’ poll, while DePaul was selected to finish in last place. . . . Head coach Jay Wright spent Friday night watching high school junior Nick Rakocevic from St. Joseph High School in Westchester, a Chicago suburb. Rakocevic is regarded as one of the top prep players in the area. In November, the Wildcats received a commitment from guard Jalen Brunson, a five-star recruit from Stevenson High School in nearby Lincolnshire.
DePaul: Oliver Purnell remained winless against Villanova as head coach. The loss was his seventh straight versus the Wildcats, the last six by more than 13 points. . . The Blue Demons have not beaten a top 10 team since a 64-57 triumph against fifth-ranked Kansas on Dec. 2, 2006 at Allstate Arena.
Villanova: Hosts Marquette on Wednesday night.
DePaul: Hosts Seton Hall on Tuesday night.