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Josh Hart adds to Player of the Year resume, No. 1 Villanova survives DePaul

Temple v Villanova

VILLANOVA, PA - DECEMBER 13: Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts after making a basket against the Temple Owls in the second half at The Pavilion on December 13, 2016 in Villanova, Pennsylvania. The Villanova Wildcats defeated the Temple Owls 78-57. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

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Maybe Villanova was looking ahead to Saturday’s date with No. 10 Creighton. Maybe the Wildcats just had an off-night on Wednesday. Maybe DePaul is better than we realized.

Whatever the reason may be, No. 1 Villanova’s Big East opener against DePaul ended up being more exciting than the top-15 battle between Virginia and Louisville, as the Blue Demons erased a 12-point second half deficit and nearly upset the Wildcats in the Pavilion, losing 68-65.

DePaul was down just four points at the half and, after Villanova pushed that lead to 12 midway through the second half, used a 14-1 run to take a lead with five minutes left. The two teams would trade baskets for the rest of the game before Villanova’s Josh Hart started doing Josh Hart things.


The leader in the clubhouse for National Player of the Year finished with 25 points on Wednesday, including 10 of Villanova’s final 12 points. He hit a three with less than a minute left that pushed the lead to four and gave Jay Wright’s club the cushion they needed to head into Saturday’s showdown undefeated.

And that game Saturday is a showdown in every sense of the word.

Creighton, like Villanova, has not lost a game yet this season. They are, most will tell you, the two best teams in the Big East this season. If Creighton wants any chance of winning the Big East regular season title, that is a game they absolutely have to win. Villanova has lost six games in the league in the last three years. Creighton isn’t making up a one-game deficit when they would still have to play a return game in Philly.

So I guess I can’t blame Villanova for looking a head to that game three days after Christmas.

But I can be glad that they didn’t take the luster off of the matchup by falling to DePaul three days beforehand.