Illinois State defeated DePaul for a third straight time on Sunday, walking out of Allstate Arena after a 78-72 win.
One thing became very apparent today: this DePaul team is drastically different when Myke Henry is in the game and when he's on the bench.
The offenses displayed by both teams on Sunday were absolutely horrendous. DePaul could never manage to get anything done in the first half in the paint, scoring only 6 points from there. Not only is that dismal, but it is even worse when you notice that Illinois State mustered 18 points in the paint in the first half. The disparity between the two teams is certainly disconcerting, but a bit understandable when you realize that it's essentially Tommy Hamilton vs. an extremely tough frontcourt that includes Reggie Lynch. Lynch is a monster in the post, averaging close to four blocks per game.
That disparity was due, in large part, to the fact that Illinois State did a great job of defending the paint. Each time the Blue Demons would attempt to pass it inside, Illinois State would swarm them, making it nearly impossible to convert. While it did make it easier to collapse the defense and get three point looks for Jamee Crockett and others, it cut out a key element of offense for DePaul.
One of the key reasons for the first half deficit was the foul trouble that Myke Henry found himself in. After picking up his second foul with 5:26 left in the first half, Myke Henry was taken out of the game. DePaul had a 23-16 lead when he was taken out. From that point on, DePaul seemed discombobulated. Their offense couldn't conjure up a meaningful possession and Illinois State came out of a slump. It was clear that Henry would have to be on his A-game if DePaul was to pull out the victory.
The second half treated viewers to much better basketball from the Blue Demons. They were doing a much better job of working hard in the paint, as Henry was finally able to come back into play. Due to that, DePaul was rebounding better (even though Illinois State was winning the rebounding battle handily) and doing a great job of limiting the efficiency of the Redbirds' post players.
On a related note, the Blue Demons offense was looking like it had in some of its more dominating performances this year. They were doing an excellent job of finding shooters like Jamee Crockett and Durrell McDonald, both of whom were killing Illinois State with their corner threes.
The biggest sticking point for DePaul was their tempo. They were finally able to completely take over the game in the second half, forcing turnovers and getting momentum-swinging dunks and layups in transition. Illinois State couldn't keep up with DePaul when the game was going so fast, which allowed DePaul to pull out to a rather comfortable lead. One of the biggest series in the game came around the 14:30 mark, when Jamee Crockett nailed a three from the aforementioned corner. He then went down, forced a steal, and dunked it home in transition, putting the Blue Demons up 45-39. From that point, DePaul managed to continue their attack, forcing turnovers and getting good looks in transition.
DePaul was also not as tentative in the paint in the second half. Guards like Garrett and Crockett were much more willing to drive it in and take the foul, which is great, seeing as they are both excellent foul shooters. That's one key point that helped extend the DePaul lead, as it greatly limited the excellent Illinois State post players, who found themselves in foul trouble. The Blue Demons took great advantage of that, beating the Redbirds at their own game.
Illinois State did manage to make a game out of it, though. A few big plays, including a foul called with 1:51 left, allowed the Redbirds to pull within one point. They were doing an excellent job of getting back into the paint, exploiting the fact that DePaul was severely limited with Henry at four fouls and Hamilton at three. The Blue Demons managed to gain some lead separation after a Myke Henry three with a bit over a minute left.
It all changed, however, with less than a minute left. Paris Lee was fouled on a three point shot, which fell after bouncing around four times. DePaul then turned the ball over and afforded Illinois State an old-fashioned three-point play in order to give the Redbirds a four-point lead. It was a complete collapse by a DePaul team that had the game all but locked up only a few minutes ago.
This loss sucks, for the sheer fact that it should have gone the other way. DePaul had this one locked up, but a series of horrible errors allowed Illinois State to pull of their first ever road win against the Blue Demons.
- Illinois State won the rebounding battle, as expected. The Redbirds came into tonight averaging a +6 rebounding margin. They finished tonight's game with a margin of +5. The big point, however, is that the Redbirds were afforded 16 offensive rebounds.
- Illinois State has been playing DePaul since 1904. This is the first time they've ever beaten DePaul on the road.
- Jamee Crockett scored a career-high 22 points tonight, but it seems all for naught as the Blue Demons came away with a loss.
- DePaul still leads the all-time series 21-5.
- That is literally the worst final minute of basketball I have seen from a team in a long, long time.
- Illinois State caught a major break at the end of the first half. Down by a point with the ball, Justin McCloud was fouled by Durrell McDonald while shooting. He made the three and the subsequent free throw, converting on the four-point play. Here's how it went down: