The DePaul Blue Demons vanquished the Morgan State Bears Monday night by a final score of 91-63. The three headed monster that was Eli Cain, Max Strus and Devin Gage found their rhythm early and never relented after that.
Cain’s Career Mark
The versatile Eli Cain was all over the floor tonight for the DePaul Blue Demons finishing with a final stat line of 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting (50%), 5-of-9 from 3 (55.5%), eight rebounds and six assists. However, it was a free throw at the 5:54 mark in the 1st half putting DePaul up 26-16 that was particularly meaningful. With that free throw, Eli Cain became the 33rd player in DePaul basketball’s storied history to eclipse the 1,200 career-point mark.
“I had no idea,” said Cain when asked on reaching the milestone. “It says he can score. It’s what he does,” added teammate Max Strus. “He puts the ball in the basket.”
The do-it-all shooting guard has developed a knack for making the right play at the right time and it’s been on display at a high level through the first two games. Immediately after reaching the milestone, Cain trailed his man around a screen and blocked his shot from behind. He proceeded to charge the ball up the court and pass it to teammate Jaylen Butz for a reverse lay-up. “He,” Coach Dave Leitao said, “wasn’t as highly regarded of a recruit going to college. Credit to him for staying with the process and not ever really giving up on himself. He’s a gym rat.”
Sophomore point guard Devin Gage followed up that play by stealing a pass and taking it the other way for an emphatic dunk to make it 30-17 late in the first. This was part of a series of plays that DePaul used to take control of the game for good and go into the half up 39-20, but more importantly this play exemplified the awareness and overall composure Gage played with tonight.
Gage ended with an efficient 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting (62.5%) and a savvy 9-to-2 assist-to-turnover ratio.
“Devin and ours relationship is tremendous,” said Coach Leitao. “I pointed him out yesterday in practice because he had a focus about him that was at a very high level. My challenge was to keep that focus (beyond today). Because when he does he gains more confidence and the team gains more confidence in him as a leader with the ball in his hands.”
Strus and Cain returning for productive senior years was expected. The unknown, and still somewhat of an unknown, is the level Gage would be able to play at. Gage’s knack for driving the ball into holes in the lane and finishing at the rim or kicking it out to an open shooter could be the straw that stirs the drink.
“He played unreal tonight,” said Strus. “His energy and getting everybody together and starting off was unbelievable.”
Strus is (Still) Loose
Just another day at the Wintrust Arena for Max Strus. 25 points on 9-of-15 (60%) from the field and 5-of-8 (62.5%) from deep. Par for the course.
“I don’t know if I recall a bad shot in two games,” Coach Leitao stated. “He hasn’t gotten greedy. He’s become more dangerous because of the work he’s put in.”
Strus scored the first six points for the Blue Demons by knocking down his first two three-pointers. He stayed active all night by moving without the ball on offense to find open spots, and wreaking havoc on the glass with nine rebounds including four offensive boards.
“It’s easier with weapons around you,” said Strus, “they provide more open shots for me. I don’t have to rush and we all get ourselves involved.”
DePaul is back home Thursday, November 15th for their first game against a team from a major conference in Penn State.
Follow Sean Dunderdale on twitter-Photo Credit: suntimes.com