On New Year’s Day, DePaul hosted the (12-1) no. 21 Providence Friars in Wintrust Arena.
To start, Javon Freeman-Liberty made a nice floater and Philmon Gebrewhit swished in a three to give the Blue Demons an early 2 point lead (5-3). After that, the rest of the half was all Providence.
The Friars proceeded to go on an 8-0 run led by a Justin Minaya three to give themselves a 6 point lead (11-5). After a Javon Freeman-Liberty jumper, Providence would go on a 7-0 run including 5 points from A.J. Reeves. This 11 point lead would extend to 25 by halftime for the Friars.
DePaul shot a terrible 6/26 from the field and 3/10 from behind the arc. The Blue Demons could not even convert their free throws, shooting 2/6 from the line. On the other hand, Providence was hot in the first half. The Friars shot 16/29 from the field and 5/8 from three.
DePaul came out of the second half looking much better, but their effort was not enough to make up for the hole that they put themselves in during the first half. In the second half, the Blue Demons outscored Providence 36-28.
The non eventful second half resulted in a final score of 70-53 in favor of the Providence Friars.
To be honest, there were not many positives for DePaul in this game. I would say that the most prevalent positive would be the individual performance for Javon Freeman-Liberty. Before this game, Javon had struggled against the better teams that the Blue Demons had faced. On Saturday, he showed that he can perform and be the superstar that DePaul needs. JFL put up 22 points on 8/16 shooting from the field and 4/6 shooting from three.
On the opposite end, there are a lot of improvements that the Blue Demons need to make if they want to be competitive come March. First off, whenever Javon Freeman-Liberty is on the court, he should be the main playmaker. There were stretches where JFL would score 5 straight and then Jalen Terry would take the ball up the court. I think that Terry is a solid player and a great secondary playmaker, but he is not Javon Freeman-Liberty. The offense looked stagnant whenever JFL was not involved, whether that means him being on the bench or not taking the ball up. Another improvement that DePaul needs to make is its shooting. The Blue Demons were nowhere near efficient when shooting in the paint. For the majority of the game, it felt like there was a lid on whatever basket the Blue Demons were shooting towards. I can guarantee that DePaul will not win a game shooting 17/57 from the field. The last improvement that I want to focus on is the constant hole that DePaul has put themselves in. In the last 5 games, they have had a deficit of 8 or more points less than 5 minutes into the game. The Blue Demons need to take control earlier or at least be competitive to start.
The effort that the Blue Demons put forth today was unacceptable. From the shooting to the playmaking, a lot needs to change. I have faith in Tony Stubblefield as a coach to turn this ship around. I do not think that the panic button needs to be pressed just yet. As for the narratives that DePaul can’t compete in conference play, that is something that the Blue Demons need to destroy on the court. My words will not be enough to fight these narratives.
The (9-3) (0-2) DePaul Blue Demons travel to Queens, New York to play the (8-3) (0-0) St. John’s Red Storm at Carnesseca Arena for another round of Big East action.