DePaul is 1-11 in Big East Conference games. The Blue Demons have lost seven straight, the latest a 93-64 blowout at Creighton last Saturday.
But Villanova coach Jay Wright still remembers what he and his team experienced on Jan. 14 when the Blue Demons forced overtime at Finneran Pavilion and battled all the way before the Wildcats came up with a 79-75 victory, defeating DePaul for the 19th straight time.
“They really beat us on the glass and at the end of the game their press really bothered us,” Wright said Tuesday before the 12th-ranked Cats (19-6, 8-4) headed to the airport for a flight to Chicago and Wednesday night’s game against DePaul (13-12 overall) at Wintrust Arena.
“It’s hard for us to simulate their athleticism and length, but we tried to prepare for it. But we know when we go into these games on the road with teams that are real athletic and long like this, we’re going to have to kind of get a feel early, hopefully be solid, and then settle in.”
Before losing to Creighton, DePaul had lost its four previous games by seven, four, eight and four points.
“They’re in so many games, they’re right there,” Wright said. “That game at Creighton, we’ve all been out there, us included. When [Creighton] gets it going and that crowd gets going and they’re hitting threes, it’s tough. But the other games, they’re in it, they’re talented. We look at the Butler game when they beat Butler there pretty handily [79-66 on Jan. 18]. That’s what they’re capable of.”
After losing three in a row, the Wildcats have rebounded with back-to-back wins, including Sunday’s 76-56 victory at Temple that clinched the outright Big 5 championship. The Cats knocked down 17 three-point baskets in the game and overcame early foul trouble to starting center Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.
Robinson-Earl, who was named Big East freshman of the week Monday for the sixth time this season, played less than 6 ½ minutes of the first half but went foul free in the second half while contributing 8 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists.
“I’d say it’s all a mindset,” Robinson-Earl said. “You can either go in the tank when you get two fouls knowing you’re probably going to sit the rest of the half, or you can keep a great attitude and keep your team into it, keep your coaches into it, so we can have just a great outcome for the game.”
The 6-foot-9 Robinson-Earl will be challenged by DePaul’s Paul Reed, a 6-9 junior who averages 15.1 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocked shots per game. He had 18 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 steals in Game 1 at Villanova.
Asked about a Forbes.com report saying that the New York Knicks were going to make a strong push to make him their new head coach, Wright said he had not spoken to anyone from the team, and that he has no intention of leaving Villanova.