Tuesday brought another Big East Conference nail-biter for the DePaul basketball team.
Unfortunately for the struggling Blue Demons, that simply meant the latest in a string of excruciating defeats.
DePaul (12-5, 0-4 Big East) again will aim for its first league victory when it hosts No. 5 Butler on Saturday afternoon. After rolling through the nonconference season at 12-1, the Blue Demons have lost each of their first four Big East contests by a combined 20 points, the latest coming Tuesday in a 79-75 overtime setback at Villanova.
"We've just got to win," Blue Demons coach Dave Leitao said. "We're 0-4 and we had four games that could have went either way. Each one, at whatever point late in the game, were one-possession games.
"We've got to be able to understand how over the course of the game we don't get to that point. And then we've also got to understand when we're in that mode late in games, how to do a good job of making sure the other team doesn't score and get positive results on offense."
Promising beginnings boosted DePaul's confidence against Villanova, as the visitors built an early 21-8 lead. The Wildcats, however, countered with a 22-7 run to close the half to take a two-point lead into intermission.
As Leitao indicated, Villanova prevailed when it mattered, regrouping in the extra session after the Blue Demons rallied to erase an 11-point deficit with 2:14 to go in regulation.
Butler (15-2, 3-1) is coming off a frustrating loss of its own after faltering down the stretch of a 78-70 home loss to No. 18 Seton Hall on Wednesday. The Bulldogs took a 66-65 lead on a Sean McDermott three-point play with 3:48 remaining but could not hold off the Pirates, who ended the game on a 13-4 run.
Hosting a game as a top-five team for the first time since Hinkle Fieldhouse opened its doors in 1928, the Bulldogs suffered their first home defeat following a 9-0 start.
"That's one of those environments, one of those games, that's why they come to Butler for games like that," Bulldogs coach LaVall Jordan said. "It was a high-level basketball game, and at the end of the day, they had some guys step up and make some plays."
After shooting 56 percent in the first half, Butler struggled to 30 percent shooting in the second. The team's perimeter game struggled to the tune of a 6-for-21 effort from long range, and point guard Aaron Thompson battled foul trouble throughout the night.
The loss was only the second of the season for the Bulldogs and snapped a six-game winning streak.
Butler won both meetings against DePaul last season, winning by 18 points in Chicago one month before a 13-point victory on its home floor.
The Bulldogs are 11-1 against the Blue Demons since Butler entered the Big East before the 2013-14 season and boast an 11-game winning streak in the series. Butler has won 11 of 17 meetings overall.
DePaul was ranked in the top five on two occasions when the programs met before they were conference rivals. The Blue Demons won both times, during the 1979-80 and 1980-81 seasons.
Blue Demons junior forward Paul Reed had 18 points and 15 rebounds against Villanova for his Big East-leading 12th double-double of the season.
--Field Level Media