On Tuesday night, the DePaul Blue Demons entered Credit Union 1 Arena to play an inter-city road game against the UIC Flames.
UIC came out of the gates with an 11-3 run. People claimed that this could be a trap game for the Blue Demons after an emotional win against Louisville on Friday night and a look ahead to Northwestern this upcoming Saturday. These claims looked to be true after the Flames’ strong start.
DePaul quickly answered those claims and tied the game at 13 after the U16 media timeout. UIC would answer right back and bring their lead back up to six (23-17) with 10 minutes left in the half.
The theme of this game was answers; no team was ever able to completely pull away. After UIC took a 6 point lead, the Blue Demons slowly worked their way back. By halftime, DePaul had taken over the lead, and entered the locker room up 33-30.
After a three pointer to start the half, it looked like DePaul was going to continue to extend their six point lead and run away with the game, but UIC would not go away.
The second half consisted of DePaul taking the lead and UIC coming back. With around 10 minutes left in the half, the Blue Demons attained their largest lead of 8 (56-48). Again, UIC came storming back, and with 4:31 left in the game the Flames got an and-one and took a one point lead (64-63).
UIC would extend their one point lead to three (66-63), before giving up a 9-0 run to the Blue Demons. These nine points from DePaul would be the last nine points of the game.
The game ended in a final score of 72-66 in favor of the Blue Demons.
MVP: Javon Freeman-Liberty
The indisputable MVP of this game was JFL. The Chicago native bounced back in a huge way after his worst shooting effort last Friday night. Last night, he put up a team and game high 27 points on 8-23 shooting, as well as seven rebounds. JFL looked a lot more aggressive this game, and reaped the benefits. The senior shot a season high 14 free throws, making 10 of them. This is a huge step for Javon, especially with his recent shooting woes. JFL made many huge shots including a put back to extend DePaul’s lead to four with 17 seconds left in the game. His ability to make a shot or get to the line whenever the Blue Demons needed it last night has earned him the MVP of the game.
X-Factor: Nick Ongenda
I always believe that the MVP of every game is separate from the X-Factor. The MVP is the player that is most valuable to the team, but the X-Factor is the player that made the biggest impact. This game, that player was Nick Ongenda. The junior has been a monster in the paint all season, and that continued last night. Ongenda totaled 12 points, most of which came in the paint. On top of that, he also had four rebounds and two blocks. The Ontario native’s presence in the paint was one of the keys to DePaul winning this game. Both his shot blocking ability and ability to score gave the Blue Demons the upper hand.
DePaul has shown over the course of the last month and a half that they are a talented team. The Blue Demons have struggled a bit, but for the most part have been one of the stronger teams in the nation. Despite playing bad basketball last night, they still found a way to win, and that is what I think the main takeaway should be from this game. They were down three with less than four minutes left, and found a way to win. In no means was this win pretty, but at the end of the day, a win is a win.
The (9-1) DePaul Blue Demons finish their three game road trip on Saturday, December 18th against the (7-2) Northwestern Wildcats at Welsh-Ryan Arena.