DePaul managed to pull off a victory on New Year's Eve that surprised basically anyone who had been watching the Blue Demons since the start of December. The Blue Demons hadn't played good basketball since their December seventh win against Milwaukee, so it was of the utmost importance that they pick up a win in their Big East opener, a game with an enormous amount of meaning.
In the first 30 minutes of play, it really seemed like viewers were seeing the same DePaul team that they had been looking at for the past month. The team looked disconcerted, they lacked energy, and they were not defending the paint. That last detail had more to do, however, with the fact that Tommy Hamilton IV, DePaul's key center, was suspended by the team that day for a violation of key rules. Sure, Hamilton had been struggling with his shot in previous games, but there is no question that he is the best man that DePaul can hope to have in the post.
Consequently, Marquette's big men had a good day against the Blue Demons. Hamilton's absence proved costly for DePaul, as players like Steve Taylor, Jr., Juan Anderson, and Luke Fischer were able to grab nearly half of the Golden Eagles' rebounds, as well as getting a respectable amount of the team's points. The Blue Demons had no answer and were in no place to take on the onus of stopping Marquette's post attack. That proved to be the biggest component of Marquette's offense, highlighting once more how DePaul can't afford to allow 38 points in the paint. The Blue Demons are just lucky that the Golden Eagles went ice cold in the final ten minutes of the game.
As we have become accustomed to in the past two seasons, Billy Garrett, Jr. proved to be the player of the game for DePaul. The sophomore guard filled his role as floor leader quite nicely, scoring a season-high 19 points. Not only did he score voluminously, but he also shot very well. Marquette is not a great defensive team by any means, but their defending of DePaul's guards was similar to what we saw from DePaul when defending Marquette's big men.
Conversely, Marquette's guards didn't put up nearly as great numbers. Matt Carlino, a BYU transfer who is known to score in great quantities, had an abysmal shooting day. He is typically an astounding three point shooter, but he only shot 1/10 from long range against the Blue Demons. A lot can be attributed to DePaul's pressure defense, which burdened Marquette greatly. That defense exhibited by many of DePaul's guards is one of the few bright spots lit by the Blue Demons' defense.
- DePaul managed a great comeback in this game, trailing by 13 points at the with roughly 11 minutes to go. Any person who has watched games they've played in this past month would have counted them out. Nevertheless, their body language stayed strong and they managed to push forward to capture their first Big East opener win since 2008.
- DePaul's pressure defense continued to be the bread and butter of their defense. With very quick, large, and athletic guards such as Billy Garrett, Jr., Durrell McDonald, and Darrick Wood, it is no surprise that the Blue Demons do a great job of trapping the opposition and forcing turnovers. They had 12 steals against Marquette, a team that only averages 11 turnovers per game. If DePaul is to win more Big East games, this pressure has to continue, so long as they do not get into foul trouble.
- Hopefully all issues will be resolved regarding Tommy Hamilton. He hasn't played his best basketball in recent games, but his presence on the court is something that DePaul greatly needs--they don't have another big man quite like him.
- This graph, courtesy of KenPom, says all you need to know about how this game went from a Marquette victory to being in solid favor of DePaul:
- At that point when Marquette was up by 13 points, KenPom gave DePaul only a 4.6% probability to pull out the win.
Putting it Together
There aren't enough positive adjectives in the world to describe how great this win was for DePaul, but God knows I'm going to try and list some. Here goes nothing: pulchritudinous, resplendent, sumptuous, the list goes on and on. The point is that DePaul
needed required a win in this opener. Since collapsing against Illinois State, the Blue Demons have been craving a win. Their morale was sinking and their level of play was on the fritz. Their massive win against Stanford no longer held value, as losses to teams such as Ohio and Loyola Marymount cancelled that. A win in this Big East opener was a desideratum.
This game provided an even greater uptick to the team's mood, which was certainly hampered by the suspension of Tommy Hamilton and the recent 6-game skid. There is no question that this win was what was needed for the Blue Demons to try and right the ship that is their season.
The 6-1 start quickly eroded and now the Blue Demons are back to .500 at 7-7. With a key player missing and conference play in full swing, DePaul is going to have to do all they can to salvage a good season. That continues this Saturday when Xavier comes to town. DePaul has to win games against some of the Big East's lower-ranked teams. They did it against Marquette. They have to do it against the Musketeers.