After winning their first four games of the season, the DePaul Blue Demons walked into South Bend to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish last Saturday. There was some confidence surrounding this DePaul team, but they were quickly reminded how much work is still left for them in terms of competing with the top programs.
DePaul hung in there with ND throughout the first half and kept the belief of pulling off an upset in their first road game of the season. It would be extra sweet, as they lost to the Irish in their home opener last year. But the second half was a totally different story. Within minutes, DePaul saw the gap increase to double digits and it kept ballooning.
Suddenly, the Fighting Irish’s lead was 20 points, and you could sense this one was about to be over. DePaul kept fighting to get back into the game, but Notre Dame was just too much for them. In the end, it was a 90-75 victory and the first loss of the season for DePaul.
On the bright side, this was a game where they were the underdogs heading into it and they battled. This wasn’t some game where they were suppose to blowout the opponent and didn’t just show up. It could serve as a good wakeup call and remind DePaul about the long road they have ahead this season.
The loss put DePaul at 3-1, ending their reign as one of the few undefeated teams in the Big East. Tonight offers a good chance for them to make their record 5-1 and keep their undefeated streak at home.
The Cleveland State Vikings will be the opponents for the Blue Demons tonight. With a record of 2-5, they find themselves at the bottom of the Horizon League standings already and are hoping to turn things around. Cleveland State is currently on a three-game slide with losses to Samford, Ohio State, and Purdue-Fort Wayne. It was especially painful in their most recent game, which took place against IPFW. With 0.7 seconds left on the game clock, Matt Holba splashed a 3-pointer from dead center and it gave the Mastodons the 82-79 victory.
It was a stunning victory and one which Cleveland State will hope they can bounce back from. With Northern Kentucky already 7-1, tiers have already been set in the Horizon League. It’s early in the season, but as with many mid-major conferences, you can tell who the cream of the crop are early on. If the Vikings want to get back into the race and get a good seed in the Horizon League Tournament, they need to turn around their form before the year ends.
How to watch, listen, or stream
Game Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV: Fox Sports 2
Radio: WSCR 670 AM (DePaul)
Stream: Fox Sports Go (where streaming is available)
Odds: DePaul enters this game as a 18-point favorite (via OddsShark.com)
Record ATS: DePaul (3-1) || Cleveland State (3-3)
O/U: The over/under opened at 146.5
Last Time They Met
It’s been quite a while since these two programs met on the court. In fact, the last time they did it was back in 1986. Cleveland State won that contest 90-75 and tonight will only be the second time these two programs meet.
3 Things to Watch
Better second half performance
It wasn’t a pretty second half on Saturday. The Blue Demons gave up 56 points in the final 20 minutes to Notre Dame and it was the big difference in the game. DePaul’s offense played the same way for most of the game and the scoring by half dictates just that. But they need to be better defensively and have a better finish to tonight’s game than what happened in South Bend.
Looking at the boxscore from Saturday’s game, the lack of three-point shooting stood out. Not only did DePaul only shoot 30.4 percent from deep, they had only two players hit more than 2 shots from there. Both Jalen Coleman-Lands and Eli Cain were the only Blue Demons to knock down multiple triples. Max Strus, who is the leading bucket getter on this squad, only went 1 for 8. Look for a better shooting night from Strus, who has sort of moved away from the efficient shooting we saw to start the season. If DePaul wants to continue to win games in conference play, they need him to continue to shoot the ball.
Taking care of business at home
Like I mentioned earlier, DePaul hasn't lost at home yet and it’s a great sign thus far. Establishing some sort of confidence in your own arena is key. It’s not going to help during nonconference play, but it will when other Big East teams come to Wintrust Arena. The Blue Demons will have some confidence in their own home knowing how good they have been when playing in Chicago. With games against Cleveland State and Florida A&M coming up, they should be undefeated at home before the Northwestern game.