Another night, another heart-breaker for the Blue Demons of DePaul University was the story after their narrow loss to Providence at Wintrust Arena on Friday night. On FS1’s “All-Access” telecast of the Blue Demons and the Friars, DePaul once again had the ball, in a single-possession game with a Big East opponent on the ropes, unfortunately for the Blue Demons the Friars escaped with a narrow victory.
This seems like the constant narrative this season for DePaul. The Blue Demons have turned in respectable performances against Notre Dame, Illinois, Oregon, Northwestern, Villanova, Georgetown, Xavier and Providence, but came up on the wrong side of things in the end. The Blue Demons even played Michigan State tough until they fell apart in the second half on Thanksgiving at the PK80 Tournament in Portland, Oregon.
Of DePaul’s nine losses this season, all have come against either a top-ranked team, an undefeated team , a conference leader at the time, or a Big East rival, with many of them coming without point guard Devin Gage who’s season was lost to an ACL injury early-on.
Same Old Song and Dance?
The DePaul faithful have sung the tune of this season being just another note from the same old song and dance, and that’s just not the case. At the surface, the results look the same, and they probably feel worse this season, given how close all of these defeats have been, but the sentiment of the opposing coaches sings a different tune.
There’s a constant sentiment in each post-game press conference this season, and it revolves around the Blue Demons putting the Big East on notice, that they’re no longer the punching bag of power programs like Villanova and Providence.
A couple of weeks ago, the Blue Demons fell to the top-ranked Villanova Wildcats at Wintrust Arena. If you wanted to judge the game solely on the box score, you’d see that DePaul lost by 18 points at home. You would know that Villanova shot a ridiculous 54 percent from the field and 48 percent from range.
You wouldn’t know that Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright believed that if his team, led by Mikal Bridges (likely lottery pick in this April’s NBA Draft) and Jalen Brunson, would have been in trouble if they hadn’t hit seemingly every shot they took.
“We hit shots, I mean when you make shots like that, everything is going to look good. We didn’t defend to well, we didn’t rebound too well, we just drilled shots. Any night you make shots like that you’re going to be successful.”
What did the legendary Villanova coach think about this year’s Blue Demons?
“Right from the time that you walk out on the court you sense a different atmosphere, you sense more more excitement and pride in the building and pride in the program; and they’re a good team man, we didn’t let up, we just made shots and outscored them.
“They can score, they’ve a lot of different ways to beat you. They’ve got an inside game now, a good inside game. We were struggling early with [Marin] Maric, and [Max] Strus is a bonafide legitimate big-time player. [Eli] Cain has always been, and he’s developing into a hell of a player, they have a good team.”
Straight from the mouth of one of the most respected coaches in college hoops folks.
On Friday night, the Providence Friars came to town, sporting 11 wins already and averaging 82 points per game to date. The Friars have posted four consecutive 20-win seasons and six consecutive double-digit win seasons under Head Coach Ed Cooley.
The Blue Demons echoed Jay Wright’s opinion on their defensive prowess by holding Providence to 71 points in the narrow defeat, at one point holding the Friars without a field goal for over eight minutes to close the first half of action on Friday night. Cooley’s post game comments about DePaul were in line with Jay Wright’s from a couple of weeks ago.
“We knew coming in here that it was gonna be a tough game, they [DePaul] had a great win on the road at St. John’s, they had a really close game with Xavier, they played tough with Georgetown, Cooley said. “This team is a totally different team than we’ve played in the past, they’re mature, they’re older, they’re much more physical — it was a very hard-fought win for us.”
Cooley went as far as calling DePaul, “probably the most physical team that we’ve played in our league to this point.“
“I like this team, I like DePaul, they’re a tough out,” Cooley said. “We just were fortunate to make some shots and get the last bounce. Coach Leitao has done a great job with this group, they’ve been in a lot of close games in our league, they’ve gotta get the right bounce at some point just like we got today and I’m glad we don’t have to face them for a long time.”
The Results aren’t where anyone would like them to be at this point, and the team has it’s share of deficiencies — but make no mistake about it, this DePaul team is much improved and trending in the right direction.
The consensus from the coaches of some of the best college basketball programs around can be summed up in one sentence; The DePaul Blue Demons have put the rest of the Big East on notice this season.