DePaul is getting hot at the right time, winning their third in the row with the 91-80 victory over Marquette at home. Marquette is trending the opposite direction, now having lost four of their last six.
After an incredible 39 point performance in DePaul’s win over St. John’s, Javon Freeman-Liberty unsurprisingly faced much of Marquette’s defensive attention to start the game. The carousel of defenders Freeman-Liberty faced held him to just nine points on 2 of 9 shooting. Justin Lewis headed into this game averaging 11.7 points in his last three games, so Marquette fans were feeling good when he came out hot in this game to help the Golden Eagles jump out to a lead in the first half. He finished the first half with 12 points and six rebounds to help Marquette jump out to a 37-33 lead.
After Marquette quickly expanded their lead to seven to start the second half, DePaul exploded. In the all-access game earlier this year, Shaka Smart told his team that if DePaul doesn’t score then they don’t defend. What Shaka found out in this game is how much they defend when they do score. Once the Blue Demons hit a couple 3s, their entire energy completely shifted. They locked in on defense and played with a newfound aggression. This led to a 26-6 run that was too much for Marquette to overcome. The Golden Eagles continued to shoot themselves in the foot down the stretch preventing any substantial comeback attempt.
While DePaul fans must be extremely happy with how their team is playing, there has to be a little bit of frustration with the excitement. As the broadcast to this game repeated over and over, DePaul is a dangerous team. The talent on this team is clear and it is enough to compete with the top of the Big East. DePaul continues to show flashes of a great team, but their record clearly doesn’t reflect it. In this game, why didn’t they play well until they hit a few 3s? If this team can find a way to be locked in when their shots aren’t falling then they can be as dangerous as they are made out to be. If not, then consistent teams like Villanova and Creighton (who DePaul is 0-4 against, losing by an average of 16 PPG) will continue to drool over matchups against DePaul.
Marquette’s defensive struggles on the road continue. In their four straight road losses, they have given up an average of 84.75 PPG. A potential key to stopping the bleeding may be to do a better job at not sending the opposing team to the FT line. DePaul, a “bad FT shooting team” according to the broadcast, went 20-22 from the line. In their last four losses, Marquette gives up an average of 21.25 FT attempts per game. While the losses to Butler and Creighton may be more forgiving on the defense due to catching poor 3-point shooting teams on nights they caught fire from 3, this matchup appeared to be an effort issue. Marquette fans will have to hope Shaka can fix this strikingly poor defensive effort otherwise Marquette’s postseason won’t last long.
Dep - Freeman-Liberty 26 (8/20)
Marq - Lewis 26 (11/18)
Dep - Freeman-Liberty 5
Marq - Kolek 3
Dep - Freeman-Liberty 9
Marq - Lewis 10
DePaul @ 18 UConn on Saturday 3/5
Marquette vs St. John’s on Saturday 3/5