ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Never mind the slow start. Scottie Reynolds wanted the ball at the end, and given the way he converted, it was easy to see why.
"At the end of the game, I just wanted to make plays for us," he said. "I wanted to be the guy with the ball in his hands. My teammates have confidence in me."
He had plenty of help in the second half from Dante Cunningham, who scored 14 of his 18 points over the final 20 minutes. But Reynolds shouldered the load in the end, scoring eight points during the last 2:05 to lead the Wildcats (23-5, 11-4 Big East) to a victory that was more dramatic than expected.
"Come on, we got lucky," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "They outplayed us. They outplayed us."
But he wasn't knocking his team.
"We didn't play that bad," Wright said. "They just played really well and we didn't play our best game. That's what happens in the Big East this year."
Villanova trailed by eight points early in the second half, then went on a 21-5 run to take a 52-44 lead. The Wildcats were leading 60-48 with about six minutes left, but rather than pull away, they had to hang on as DePaul made a late push behind Will Walker's 3-point barrage.
He hit four 3-pointers during a 12-2 run that pulled the Blue Demons (8-20, 0-15) within 62-60 with 2:47 left, but it wasn't enough and they dropped their 15th straight, extending their record losing streak.
"It's a credit to Villanova," DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright said. "They're good and they know how to win."
Three times the Blue Demons pulled within two, only to see Reynolds respond. He converted two spinning layups and four free throws in his closing burst.
"I've done it all year -- having the ball in my hands and knocking down the free throws," Reynolds said. "I feel confident in that situation."
Cunningham was 7-for-13 from the field, and Corey Fisher added 12 points for Villanova, which got more drama than it bargained for from the lone team without a Big East win.
The Blue Demons delivered one of their most spirited performances, but they hit the 20-loss mark for only the third time despite 23 points from Walker and 17 points and 13 rebounds from Mac Koshwal. Dar Tucker scored 16, hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer, but was only 7-for-23 overall and 1-for-11 on 3s.
"I think we play hard, and I think we've played hard all year," Wainwright said. "Sometimes, it shows in results. Sometimes, it doesn't. But I think if you talk to most of the coaches in the league, our kids have generally played hard all year. ... Our guys were sharp tonight."
Even so, with three games left in the regular season, the Blue Demons are staring at the possibility of a winless conference record, but at least they kept this one close -- for a change.
DePaul players watching from the sideline spent the final few minutes of the first half on their feet, and fans showered the Blue Demons with cheers as they took a 33-25 halftime lead. It was a surprising development considering they dropped their previous four games by 19 points or more, including a 45-point blowout at Louisville.
DePaul endured a 7-minute stretch in which it got outscored 13-1 and fell behind 17-12, but rather than fade, it fought back.
The Blue Demons, seeking their first win since Dec. 28, went on a 13-3 run that Koshwal started with a three-point play on a hard dunk and Walker capped with a spinning layup in transition. Walker made two 3-pointers over the final 2:15, the second making it an eight-point game with just over a minute left in the half.
"Sometimes, when I catch my rhythm, it feels like I can't miss," he said.