The DePaul Blue Demons were in search of redemption after losing their final Rosemont opener against Rutgers 66-59. They got it with their 77-59 win over the Milwaukee Panthers Sunday afternoon at the Allstate Arena.
The game was close in the first half. DePaul was up by as much as seven on two occasions, with Chris Harrison-Docks knocking down two quick threes early and Billy Garrett leading things the rest of the way. Garrett led all scorers with eight points in the first half.
Milwaukee struggled from outside, but were able to challenge DePaul’s lack of rim protection by going 6—for-11 at the rim. The Panthers were able to close the gap to 30-27 at the half.
In the second half, the Blue Demons were able to jump out to a 16-5 run behind Eli Cain, who had only scored three in the first half. After the run settled, the Panthers did what they could to fight back, getting as close as nine with 11:40 remaining. However, DePaul went on another 10-3 run late in the half to put things away for good.
Cain and Garrett finished the afternoon with 20 points each for DePaul. Darrick Wood pitched in 12 points off the bench.
Milwaukee was paced by the Bryces - Barnes (14 points) and Nze (13) - from off the bench. Brock Stull’s nine points made him the highest-scoring starter for the Panthers.
This is DePaul’s largest win since their 21-point victory over George Washington last December.
3 Things We Learned
It’s Alive!: The loss against Rutgers could understandably lead fans to wonder if it was a harbinger of another lackluster Blue Demon season. However, DePaul came out and played a much more inspired brand of basketball on Sunday afternoon.
DePaul showed much more movement on both sides of the floor. On offense, the team ran through their sets in search of open shots instead of standing around and letting things stagnate. On defense, the Blue Demons played the Panthers tight and thwarted Milwaukee’s screens by constantly switching defenders. They were also quick to close out on shooters most of the time and hustle for rebounds. It was a welcome change of pace from their previous outing.
DePaul treated this like the winnable game it was. You want to see a team go out and play with this type of fervor all the time, but this type of effort would be particularly important to unleash on a relatively easy non-conference schedule. Getting the simple wins - with a few challenges such as Northwestern and Temple along the way - could set a tone for the Blue Demons heading into Big East play.
Cain & Garrett: Better Together: Eli Cain has started this season as a man on fire. He entered today’s game averaging 22.5 points and shooting 45.8 percent from three. That hot streak continued with a 20-point outing today. The question was if any other Blue Demons would join him in his major point production.
Billy Garrett, Jr. finally came into the fold after two rough outings to start the year. He also put up 20 for DePaul this afternoon along with six rebounds and six assists. This is the version of Billy Garrett that people expected to see when he was named to the All-Big East Preseason Second Team.
With Myke Henry gone, Billy Garrett really needed someone to pick up the slack as an additional scorer. Eli Cain has answered the call, so much so that he has outpaced Garrett to start off the year. These two could shape up to be a dynamic duo in the conference with a little more time and development.
They Left Their Shot In Milwaukee: The Panthers are essentially starting from scratch after previous coach Rob Jeter was fired and eight players left the team. Their 3-point shooting was one of the few aspects they could hang their hat on in their first season under LaVall Jordan. Today it just wasn’t there for them.
The Panthers were able to put up 23 3-point attempts for the third consecutive game. This afternoon they came away with only three makes. Sharpshooting senior Cody Wichmann, who was 9-14 from outside in the last two games, went 1-for-8 from beyond the arc today.
The funny thing is that Milwaukee had more than a few good looks that just didn’t fall. DePaul’s defense was active, but they did give up their share of open shots. We’ll see if this game is the introduction to DePaul’s stout perimeter defense, or if it was just a bad day at the office for the opponent. If DePaul wants to make inroads in conference play, they will hope it was more of the former.
DePaul’s next two opponents are from the Missouri Valley Conference. The next game is Wednesday the 23rd with the Blue Demons hosting Missouri State. A week later, they will host the Drake Bulldogs.