CHICAGO, Ill — Coming off of a win over St. John’s this past weekend on the road in Queens, N.Y., the Blue Demons were looking to notch their second conference victory of the season as they hosted the Providence Friars at Wintrust Arena. They say that basketball is “a game of runs,” and that stood especially true on Friday night as both teams would trade extended runs that would slowly shift the balance of the game back and forth.
Providence, playing very physical basketball in the early stages on Friday night would take a 20-12 lead with just over 13 minutes to play, but Max Strus pulled DePaul back to within a possession after a lay-up and a triple from the left wing on the next possession, making it a 20-17 Friars lead with just over 12 minutes to go in the first half.
The Friars were generally having their way with DePaul in the first half despite the Blue Demons keeping the score close, and around the mid-way point in the first half, Jaylen Butz was called for an illegal screen, drawing immense displeasure from the Wintrust Arena crowd, as the call was questionable at best.
The issue in the first half wasn’t the officials, but rather DePaul looking like they were caught off guard by the physicality of Providence, which in-turn caused the Blue Demons to get into foul and turnover trouble in the latter minutes of the half. Providence stretched their lead to double-digits after Kyron Cartwright hit a jump-shot to give the Friars a 29-18 lead with just under nine minutes to play.
DePaul would turn the tables on Providence, forcing them to turn the ball over on three consecutive possessions, and on the offensive end Jaylen Butz took over down low, scoring eight points in a matter of minutes, making it a 31-28 Friars lead with 4:59 to go in the opening stanza.
In the latter half of the opening frame, DePaul really got tough and started to give Providence some of their own medicine in the form of physical defense. The Blue Demons held the Friars without a field goal for over eight minutes as they stormed back from an 11-point deficit to take a 35-33 lead with 55 seconds to play in the half. DePaul would take a 35-34 lead into halftime at Wintrust Arena, led by 10 points for Marin Maric and 8 points for Jaylen Butz.
A Tre’Darius McCallum alley-oop jam helped DePaul carry the momentum into the opening minutes of the second half as the Blue Demons opened things on a 6-0 run to take a 41-34 lead with 18:02 to play after Providence called a timeout to slow the Blue Demons down. Marin Maric kept the Blue Demons going with five points of his own out of the Friars timeout, DePaul would lead by as many as 12 in the first five minutes of the second half.
The Friars would charge back into the game, cutting the DePaul lead down to just two after a pair of Alpha Diallo free-throws made it a 46-44 game with just over 13 minutes to play. A Jalen Lindsey triple from the corner on the ensuing possession gave Providence the lead back at 47-46 with 12:44 to play in the game.
On the strength of a 22-0 run that lasted nearly six minutes, the Friars jumped back ahead by as many as 10 over DePaul, leading 56-47 with 8:50 to play in the second half. During the latter portion of that 22-0 run by Providence, Wintrust Arena went dead, with the only noise coming from a well represented visitor’s section behind the Friars bench.
As was the story of the day — another big run, this time an 11-1 run by DePaul that was capped off by Max Strus nailing a three-pointer from the wing, would make it a 67-64 Providence lead with 1:31 to play in the game. After forcing a stop on the defensive end, DePaul would have the ball down by just three with under a minute left. Max Strus would air-ball a three and Providence would ice the game on a transition bucket on the other end, with the Friars escaping Chicago 71-64 victors over the Blue Demons on Friday night.
Marin Maric scored 15 points and snagged 7 rebounds to lead the Blue Demons in both of those categories. Eli Cain and Tre’Darius McCallum each added 10 points for DePaul in the losing effort, while Max Strus struggled to find his shot all night, fighting through double-teams and physical defense and finishing with just nine points. The Blue Demons fall to 8-9 overall and 1-4 in Big East play this season, and will be back in action on Monday night when the visit Marquette.