For the second straight year, the DePaul Blue Demons have won their Big East Tournament opener.
Last season, the Blue Demons defeated Xavier in what would be the final Big East game of the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Wednesday night, the Blue Demons came away with a 70-62 upset against the Providence Friars.
DePaul came out of the gates very hot, as Charlie Moore netted a quick 11 points in the first 11 minutes of the game, pulling DePaul out to a 21-12 lead. Providence got back on track almost immediately, though, with a 7-0 run over the next 90 seconds. By the end of the first half, the Friars had grabbed a 36-35 lead, as it looked like the Friars were on the right track. Noah Horchler and Nate Watson both excelled in the first half, combining for 20 pf Providence’s 36 points.
A funny thing happened in the second half. DePaul got the lead back on their first shot of the half, as Moore connected on a layup, and the Blue Demons never trailed again. There were a couple ties, but Providence were never again able to overtake the mighty Blue Demons, as Javon Freeman-Liberty, in his first game since February 13 (concussion), took over. Freeman-Liberty had 11 points over the final 20 minutes and Moore chipped in 10 of his own, as the Blue Demons let their heavy lifters do the heavy lifting. By the final minute, DePaul’s lead was stretched to nine as it was clear the Blue Demons would be winning their second straight Big East Tournament game.
One thing DePaul did particularly well on Wednesday that they didn’t do in either of their first two meetings was slow down David Duke and AJ Reeves. Duke averaged 20.5 points in Providence’s two regular season wins over DePaul and Reeves averaged 17.5, but on Wednesday night, Duke had seven and Reeves had six, as the duo combined to go just 4-13 from the field.
DePaul advances to face UConn on Thursday evening while Providence’s season most likely comes to an end.