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Lehigh vs. DePaul game recap: Blue Demons struggle, upset by Mountain Hawks

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After a frustrating 40 minute-performance, DePaul lost its first game of the season tonight to Lehigh, a team that was 0-4 coming into the game, by a score of 86-74.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The quest for perfection ended tonight in the Allstate Arena as DePaul was upset by a Lehigh team that had not managed to win a game prior to visiting DePaul.

The first half was an absolutely frustrating performance for anyone who was affiliated with DePaul in any way, shape, or form. Not only could DePaul not seem to hit a shot (30.0 percent shooting in the opening half), but they could not manage to prevent Lehigh from scoring. The Mountain Hawks were allowed to get the shots they wanted from all over the court--that was also with their starting guards Kahron Ross and Austin Price on the bench to start the game. Lehigh was 7 of 11 from behind the arc early on, and led by as many as 14 points at one time. DePaul did manage to winnow through the lead at various times, but they never could seem to keep the deficit low, going into halftime down 41-30.

There was only silver lining of the first half: Myke Henry. Even after scoring 15 points -- a career high for him -- DePaul managed to trail by 11 at the break, dulling the hopes of the Blue Demons. Only three Blue Demons players actually scored points from, well, shots in the first half.  The rest managed to scrape together points from free throws. The turnover differential also helped in the first half (DePaul turned it over 5 times, as opposed to Lehigh's nine turnovers), certainly preventing Lehigh from continuing to dominate their side of the floor.

The most frustrating point is that DePaul was too busy settling.  They had a clear size advantage over Lehigh and instead of utilizing it to force tough shots and go inside, they allowed Lehigh to stick to the perimeter and continue to launch shot after shot.  DePaul tried too hard to emulate that, and they just could not manage to keep up.  It was extremely frustrating to watch the Blue Demons continue to throw it up from behind the arc, even though they were hitting only 17% of their three-point shots.  Refusing to take it inside against a much smaller Lehigh team cost DePaul tonight, severely hurting their chances of pulling out a win.

Consequently, the second half was not much different.  Billy Garrett had not played well all night, so he was naturally benched often by Oliver Purnell.  DePaul continued to allow Lehigh to put up the shots they wanted, as Corey Schaefer knocked down an obscene amount of shots.  Tim Kempton was all over it tonight for Lehigh, one reason why Lehigh was able to put DePaul in their place tonight.

Midway through the first half, after allowing Lehigh to go on a 17-12 scoring run that lasted for 5 minutes, DePaul managed to find some energy and drive.  Forrest Robinson, Jamee Crockett, and even Billy Garrett Jr. managed to find their shooting stroke, hitting enough threes to pull DePaul back within single digits of Lehigh.

Nevertheless, Lehigh managed to find their hot hand once again, greatly benefiting from the fact that DePaul was looking obfuscated in transition.  When down by 9, DePaul had two consecutive steals that would have resulted in great fast break scoring opportunities.  Instead of capitalizing, they attempted ill-advised passes, leading to turnovers--

Turnovers.

Turnovers were essentially the only things keeping DePaul in this game tonight, yet they could not capitalize on them.  It was so disheartening to see Lehigh get away with turning the ball over constantly and not see the consequences of it, as they had in previous games.

But I suppose I should discuss the positive . . .

Free throw shooting was the most consistent element of DePaul's offense besides Myke Henry, unfortunately.  The Blue Demons vastly improved upon their free throw numbers from the previous two outings.  This certainly helped when Lehigh got into foul trouble, as DePaul was actually managing to make the Mountain Hawks pay for sending them to the line.

There is no doubt that tonight's performance was extremely disheartening, especially with Stanford on the horizon for the Blue Demons.  It exposed some key holes for this DePaul team, chief among them being their inability to stick with their system of offense.  Whenever DePaul found themselves trapped in a deficit against Lehigh, they abandoned their system, resorting to possessions that wound up in empty perimeter shots or mismanaged drives to the basket.  It was incredibly frustrating to watch, knowing that the Blue Demons could have had a greater chance at winning if they had kept their composure and made solid passes, doing their best to find the open man.

It's questionable to say how this game will affect DePaul in the long run.  It's obviously extremely demoralizing for the team to give up their perfect season to a winless squad.  Nevertheless, it could end up being a great learning opportunity for DePaul, even though it certainly should not have been taught by Lehigh.

Notes:

  • World War II was still raging the last time that Lehigh beat a current Big East team.  That win was against Villanova in the 1941-1942 season.
  • This game wound up being great for Myke Henry, even though DePaul walked away with the loss.  He scored a career-high 21 tonight, which was only hindered by his foul trouble.
  • After being the star player in the win over Drake, Durrell McDonald fouled out late in the game tonight, scoring zero points, despite providing a solid effort on the glass.
  • This goes to show that final exams are killer.  Thanks so much, week-long basketball break.
  • Let the joshing begin: