The DePaul Blue Demons bounced back from their loss Wednesday night with a 67-55 victory over The Providence Friars in a game that came down to the final minutes.
DePaul jumped out to a 33-23 halftime lead, but a reoccurring theme for the Blue Demons this year is their inability to hold onto second-half leads, and that was no different tonight. Providence burst out of the gate to start the second-half with a 12-4 scoring run in only a few minutes behind efficient play from David Duke (17 points) and the high-energy Alpha Diallo (15 points, 8 rebounds), and put themselves in position to win with a 53-51 lead late in the 2nd half. This time, however, DePaul would not let this one slip away.
“We had a team talk a couple days ago and said this is it, it’s go time,” said senior guard and captain Max Strus. “We got 6 conference losses and it’s time to turn it around. We lost too many games in the 2nd half where we blew our lead.”
The Blue Demons used a 16-2 scoring run to run away with it late, aided by a gritty performance from Strus (13 points, 7 rebounds) and a monster game from Paul Reed who notched his fourth career double-double (18 points, 15 rebounds).
“You have an emerging superstar in your foreman,” remarked Providence Head Coach Ed Cooley. “He reminds me a lot of Hakim Warrick who was at Syracuse years ago. He’s got length; he’s got a great touch. When you play inside-out basketball and your bigs can make free throws that’s hard to defend.”
Reed seemed to do it all for the Blue Demons. He connected on all seven of his free throws, including three in the final few minutes and one after a big and-one play to put the game away for good. He’s also developed somewhat of a three-point shot recently as shown by connecting on one of the two he attempted tonight. Most importantly though, was his effort on the offensive glass. His six offensive rebounds helped DePaul exert their will over Providence and propelled the Blue Demons to 13 second-chance points on the night.
“Rebounding is all effort plays,” said Strus. “It’s something you need to focus on that’ll keep you in games and help you win games. I think we made a great decision to strive on that because they killed us at Providence on the glass.”
On January 27 when DePaul played at Providence, The Blue Demons were out rebounded on the glass in a three-point loss. This time around, DePaul showed more determination and won the battle of the boards 43-31.
Coach Cooley addressed this after the game, “I thought their frontcourt dominated the game, their frontcourt manhandled our frontcourt. They had some timely shots and we didn’t. It’s a credit to them and their toughness.”
Before Cooley left the post-game press conference he had this to say about DePaul, “If I were the people here in Chicago, I would get behind this team because they are going to be really hard to compete against the second half of the season. I hope the people appreciate how far this program has come in a very short period of time. For this building not to be sold out, c’mon man, they got to get behind this group. These kids deserve that, they really do.”
With this win, DePaul surpasses their conference win total from a season ago. DePaul is 12-9 overall and have held a second-half lead in seven of their nine losses. This is a mostly young team that is still learning how to win. With some marquee games still to be played at the Wintrust Arena and a team that has its basketball ahead of them, basketball fans, Chicago sports fans, and the city in general should have more than enough reason to rally behind this team, regardless of what’s been the standard in years past.
DePaul plays their next game Saturday, February 9 at Xavier.
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