No. 19 Villanova, relying on new leaders, preps for DePaul

National Sports

Justin Moore continues to show why he’s on the verge of becoming the next standout for No. 19 Villanova.

With Collin Gillespie scoreless midway through the second half, Moore took over and carried the Wildcats past Creighton 75-41 on Wednesday. Moore finished with 22 points, though Gillespie, a Player of the Year candidate, did finish with 11.

Moore will look to keep Villanova (10-4, 3-1 Big East) surging when it aims for a fourth straight win Saturday at DePaul.

“I think that’s showing the growth of our team,” said Villanova coach Jay Wright, who picked up his 500th career win on the Main Line. “I think it’s showing the young guys are starting to step up and understand what we’re doing. When we would go into those stretches earlier (in the season), we would really look disjointed.

“I also think it’s part of Justin Moore’s leadership, realizing Collin is out and taking over.”

Moore also played a stellar game throughout on defense, helping to hold the Bluejays to 3-for-24 shooting from 3-point territory.

“That was a really good defensive effort,” Wright said. “That’s a really good offensive team that we played. Justin Moore was incredible. He played the whole first half with Collin in foul trouble. He guarded (Ryan) Hawkins, scored 22 points and was exhausted at the end of it. Justin was a great leader for us. I’m really proud of him.”

Villanova has won 20 straight matchups against DePaul, dating to 2008.

After winning nine of its first 10 games, DePaul will now be hoping to avoid a fourth consecutive loss.

The Blue Demons (9-4, 0-3) have dropped Big East games at Butler, home against Providence and most recently 89-84 at St. John’s Wednesday.

Javon Freeman-Liberty anchored DePaul with 24 points while Jalen Terry added 14. Freeman-Liberty has scored in double figures 11 times in 13 games this season.

This trend has been common for the Blue Demons in recent years: a solid start followed by some major struggles in the rugged Big East.

“We have to get better,” DePaul coach Tony Stubblefield said. “And we’ve got to do it sooner than later.”

One huge challenge will be trying to thwart Villanova’s offense. If DePaul hopes to end this maddening losing skid against the Wildcats, it will start on the defensive end.

“We’ve got to do a better job of fighting the dribble, knowing where guys are at on the floor, being connected defensively and being tough enough once we get the stop coming up with the rebound,” Stubblefield said.

On offense, the Blue Demons clearly need Freeman-Liberty to be their team leader. The former Valparaiso transfer has displayed the ability to score points in bunches. But the Big East is a challenge.

“We can’t ask Javon to get 25 every night, night in and night out,” Stubblefield said. “And we know that’s not going to be the case.”

–Field Level Media

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