CHICAGO ­— The offensive consistency Villanova has established during its four-game winning streak took more time than normal to develop at DePaul on Saturday, but a stingy second-half defense proved to be the remedy coach Jay Wright’s team needed.

That defense stymied DePaul in the second half, allowing Villanova to pull away for 79-64 Big East victory at Wintrust Arena. The 19th-ranked Wildcats (11-4, 4-1 Big East) held the Blue Demons (9-5, 0-4) to six second-half field goals and overcame a shaky first half en route to the victory.

Collin Gillespie scored 17 of his team-high 28 points in the second half and Justin Moore, who had only five points in the opening 20 minutes, finished with 21. Gillespie sparked the second-half turnaround from the perimeter, where he hit three of Villanova’s nine three-pointers.

Javon Freeman-Liberty led DePaul with 34 points.

Making a run

After a first half where the Wildcats struggled to find any offensive rhythm, they started the second half on a 8-0 run to go from trailing 37-32 at the break to a 40-37 lead. Moore scored five straight points to begin the run before DePaul hit a jumper to cut the lead to one.

“On this team, I think for the first time, [Moore] has to be the guy who is dominant for us to win. We’ve talked about that, but I think he’s figuring that it out. … On this team, he has to be the guy who dictates whether we win or lose, and I think he gets that.”

The Villanova defense held DePaul without a field goal for more than 7 minutes, 30 second. When the Blue Demons finally hit another field goal with 9:32 left, the Wildcats were up, 55-49. DePaul would get no closer than four points the rest of the way.

“We got the whole team in foul trouble and (DePaul’s) Freeman-Liberty is unconscious and we just had to weather the storm, keep grinding – no fear of failure – just keep grinding.”

“We just knew we had to get back to playing Villanova basketball,” Gillespie said. “I think we got away from that a little bit in the first half. … We have to make sure we’re doing that for 40 minutes.”

Keeping the Streak alive

Saturday’s victory marked the 21st time Villanova has beaten DePaul — a streak that dates to 2008. The 21st straight victory over the Blue Demons is the Big East’s second-longest streak, tied with Syracuse over Providence (1980-89) and within two of the Big East’s longest streak, 23 games, which is shared by UConn’s dominance of Boston College (1988-2000) and Syracuse’s of Seton Hall (1982-1992). Saturday’s meeting in Chicago marked the first time Villanova and DePaul met since the 2019-20 season after both of the scheduled meetings last season were wiped out because of COVID.

“Our guys, they really respect DePaul,” Wright said. “They’ll go through a game like this – like, first half, we were in trouble and we didn’t come in and yell. We know [DePaul] is good and players have a humility and intelligence about them to know that if you’re not playing your best against any team in this league, you’re going to get beat.”

“We know there’s more work to do and we have to have a growth mindset and come back tomorrow and get better,” Gillespie said. “We know there’s a lot we can learn from this game and fix our mistakes and try to get better for the next game, the next game. We’re just trying to have a growth mindset, looking to go forward and play Villanova basketball better than we did today and see where we end up at the end.”