The DePaul Blue Demons dropped their second straight home game and four of their last five at the Wintrust Arena with a 79-67 loss to the Creighton Bluejays on Wednesday. The Blue Demons fell behind at the end of the first half and could not recover enough in the second half to regain the lead.
“We got caught off rhythm early because part of the strength of this team is to be able to go inside and we got compromised by foul trouble early,” said Coach Dave Leitao. “We have to play with a rhythm and we have to play a specific way. Once that got compromised that became an uphill battle.”
It was certainly an unexpected turn of events the way the game unfolded. Contrary to the other games DePaul has lost, DePaul shot from three-point land efficiently and at a high clip finishing 12-for-26 from three and limiting the prolific Creighton Blue Jays to 9-for-26 from three, well below their season average. However, because of the foul trouble of big men Paul Reed (two points, seven rebounds) and Femi Olujobi (10 points, one rebound), DePaul’s strength became their weakness.
DePaul only outrebounded Creighton by one and got blasted inside losing the points in the paint battle 36-16. Max Strus led the team in points (18) and rebounds (eight) and commented after the game, “They had a good game plan. They doubled the post on the first dribble and it was a tough adjustment,” Strus said.
Creighton Coach Greg McDermott explained, “We executed the game plan really well and were able to hang on for a win. They got a couple quick fouls which obviously helped. We ran with some double teams and surprisingly they haven’t seen a lot of double teams over the course of the season. To Flynn’s credit he made us pay.”
DePaul’s unsung hero of the game was Flynn Cameron, the upstart redshirt freshman point guard who finished with 11 points and four rebounds, including burying three first half three-pointers to keep DePaul within striking distance.
“The thing I respect about him most,” said Coach Leitao, “is he’s been the exact same person the whole season. I’ve never seen him down, never seen him not trying, never seen him not working hard. I saw a little bit of it coming the last game when I put him in and he wasn’t deterred or afraid of the moment. That means he’s earned the right to get his name called.”
Creighton’s star guard, Ty-Shon Alexander (16 points, six assists) made a circus-shot three to end the half that capped off a 14-2 run for the Blue Jays. Down 53-40, DePaul used a 15-5 scoring run fueled by Strus, Olujobi and Eli Cain (14 points) to cut the Creighton lead to three at 58-55. Falling in line with some of their previous home defeats, a few defensive lapses by DePaul led to a 10-0 scoring run by Creighton to push the lead back to 13 while DePaul went four minutes without a field goal.
Incredibly, and true to their resilient identity, DePaul still found themselves in the game down 68-61 when Eli Cain stepped to the free throw line and missed both free throws. A minute later, Devin Gage air-balled the front-end of a 1-and-1, which sealed DePaul’s fate. DePaul finished an abysmal 5-for-13 from the charity stripe. Conversely, Creighton was 14-for-16 in the same category.
Until DePaul can commit to being better at the fundamentals, such as team defense and free-throw shooting, these will continue to bite them in the quintessential moments of close games.
DePaul plays on the road at Georgetown next Wednesday before hosting their final two games of the season at Wintrust Arena.
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