It was their first one in Wintrust Arena, their new home, , and it could not have came at a more perfect time. With a tough nonconference schedule coming up with many games on the road, DePaul needed some momentum heading into those games. They got just that in their win against Delaware State.
Tre'Darius McCallum led all scorers with 18 points and Max Strus bounced back to drop 15 as well. Jaylen Butz had a fantastic game off the bench, scoring seven points and grabbing 13 rebounds. It was a truly dominant performance by DePaul, who led by 14 at halftime and never left the game in doubt. It was a great first victory plus it was good to see DePaul put away a team early and not struggle in the second half to protect it. But now they travel south to Champaign, Illinois to face off with in-state rival for the first time in five decades.
With yet another tie looming in the Gavitt Games, DePaul will have a chance to clinch the title for the Big East if they can defeat their opponents: The Illinois Fighting Illini. The Illini have started the season 2-0 but it hasn’t been the easiest road to get there. Their season opener will splendid with U of I blowing out Southern University 102-55 at the State Farm Center.
But they had some trouble in their most recent game against the UT Martin Skyhawks. Despite leading by 15 points at halftime, Brad Underwood’s team nearly let the lead slip and only edged their Ohio Valley opponents 77-74 when the clock hit triple zeros. It was a narrow escape for a Illinois team that is looking for a solid foundation in nonconference before they hit the gauntlet of conference play in the Big Ten.
Beating an in-state rival like DePaul could help ease some of the tension of their previous game and help new coach Brad Underwood as he begins his first season as Illini coach.
How to watch, listen, or stream
Game Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: WIND 560 AM (DePaul) || Fighting Illini Sports Network (Illinois)
Stream: Fox Sports Go
Odds: Illinois enters this game as a seven point favorite (via Oddsshark.com)
Record ATS: DePaul (1-1) || Illinois (0-1)
O/U: The O/U for this game is at 148.
Last Time They Met
Surprisingly, these two teams haven’t actually met much considering how close they are to each other. Illinois and DePaul have only played each other 18 times with the Fighting Illini holding the series advantage 12-6. This is also an historic moment because this will be the first time the two teams have played each other in 60 years (!).
3 Things to Watch
Limiting the impact of Leron Black
If there is a player who DePaul may struggle with, it may be Leron Black. The 6’7” junior has gotten off to a pretty good start this season, scoring 14 and 23 in his first two games respectively. He’s also been a force on the glass, grabbing8 eightrebounds in their win against UT Martin. He’s currently the leading scorer on this U of I team and although they certainly have a lot of scoring options, Black could be the guy leading the way for the Illini
Jaylen Butz’s impact off the bench
There were questions about DePaul’s big man rotation and to be quite frank, there are still a lot. One thing is for certain though: Jaylen Butz will be one of the first bigs off the bench. The freshman has gotten quite a lot of playing time in his first two games for the Blue Demons, logging 15 minutes against Notre Dame and 17 against Delaware State.
He was much more impactful against the latter, with 13 rebounds. Butz has shown that he’s not afraid of the big moment and doesn’t get overwhelmed too easily. He knows his role well and doesn’t outside his limitations. He could be a big spark off the bench for DePaul and help them control the glass against an Illini team that has only averaged 39 rebounds per game so far (152nd in college basketball).
Will Eli Cain go off?
Although it’s early in the season, we haven’t seen an Eli Cain takeover game yet. We have gotten consistent performances from McCallum but not from the main man himself. While it is good to see DePaul be very competitive despite Cain not being the explosive scorer he normally is, one has to wonder when we will see the game where he takes over and wills DePaul to victory. Hopefully for Dave Leitao, Cain will show up offensively in Champaign. It could be enough for the Blue Demons to walk out of there victorious.