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Late defense, free-throw shooting moves Villanova past DePaul

Jan 17, 2008 - 7:26 AM VILLANOVA, Pennsylvania (Ticker) -- Scottie Reynolds scored 21 points for No. 21 Villanova en route to a 76-69 victory over DePaul in Big East Conference play on Wednesday.

Dante Cunningham added 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Wildcats.

Villanova (12-3, 2-2 Big East) was coming off a surprising 69-66 loss on Saturday to Cincinnati after knocking off No. 16 Pittsburgh on January 6. The Wildcats had to hang on early, however, to stay with the Blue Demons in this contest.

DePaul's Draelon Burns made his presence felt right away, hitting his first three jumpers - all 3-pointers - to help the Blue Demons (7-9, 3-2) establish an early 9-2 lead.

"We took 27 threes out of 53 shots - that is over half - and that's not the way it should be," DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright said. "When you make shots early, it's fools' gold. You need to earn some baskets."

After Villanova moved to within 11-9, the 6-4 senior guard converted a three-point play to cap a 9-0 run and leave the Blue Demons with a 20-9 advantage with 12:41 left in the first half.

DePaul stretched the lead out to 16 points on three different occasions in the opening 20 minutes, with the last coming after Dar Tucker nailed a shot from the arc to put the Blue Demons ahead, 36-20, with 5:16 remaining before intermission.

However, Reynolds, the reigning Big East Rookie of the Year, keyed an 11-4 run over the last five-plus minutes with a layup and a 3-pointer to cut the halftime deficit to 40-31.

The Blue Demons quickly regained a double-digit lead early in the second half at 48-35 with 15:48 left in the game when Will Walker and Burns scored all of DePaul's points during a three-minute stretch in which it outscored Villanova, 8-4.

The Wildcats stormed back from that point on, closing to within 57-50 over the next 4:58 before going on an odd 15-0 run over a five-plus minute stretch which saw Villanova miss seven of its 10 shot attempts during the stretch. However, it did grab six offensive rebounds and hit all nine of its free-throw attempts.

That run contributed to the 43-20 edge on the boards for the Wildcats, who pulled down 17 offensive rebounds.

"It was a turnaround game," Wainwright said. "It followed the same pattern of our first game - the story of the game was on the backboards. We needed to rebound the basketball better than we did.

"I always talk to our guys about participating on every play. I am not sure if all of our guys participated in all of the rebounding. We have some older players who have been through this before, and they need to stand up and rebound."

The run left the Wildcats with a 65-57 lead with 4:13 remaining before Burns hit one of four 3-pointers of the contest to end DePaul's drought.

"All of us have the confidence with this team this year that we are never out of a game," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "As long as these guys are here, (comebacks) will always be in their conscious. That always helps us in a game like this."

While Burns carried the Blue Demons down the stretch, scoring 13 of his team's final 15 points, it wasn't enough as the Wildcats hit their free throws to pull out the comeback win.

"Every day we are growing, getting better and better," Wildcats freshman forward Antonio Pena said. "We weren't going to let down. We were going to keep fighting."

Burns finished with 27 points and Tucker added 18 for DePaul, which lost for just the second time in seven contests.

"When we have two guys in double figures, we are not playing the game the way we should play it," Wainwright said. "Hopefully, we will get more balance to our scoring."