All DePaul men’s basketball needed to snap a six-game losing streak was a game-changing performance from the team’s best player.
Sophomore guard Billy Garrett Jr. scored 19 points, including nine of the team’s last 11 points, to help rally the Blue Demons (7-7, 1-0 Big East) over rival Marquette (8-5, 0-1) on New Year’s Eve with a 61-58 victory at Allstate Arena in Rosemont. Garrett played a large role in helping erase a 13-point deficit in the second half.
The game was part of a five-game marathon on Fox Sports 1 to open up conference play. The viewers watching and those in attendance got a great finish.
“This was much needed and couldn’t have come at a better time for us,” Garrett said. “We didn’t quit.”
DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell said that the team had much of the same gut and determination that jumped them out to a 6-1 start. But times have been rough for DePaul lately as the team suffered six losses over the span of 20 days.
“Anytime you open conference play, it’s important to set the tone with a win,” Purnell said. “This one had particular importance because of the way we had been struggling. It’s also important because it’s Marquette. They are our oldest standing rival.
“Over the last four days, we talked about staying together,” he said. “It’s really easy to stick together when you’re 6-1, but it’s a lot tougher when there’s a losing streak. … But we talked about never giving up and to believe. I thought those anchors were out there today.” ,
Garrett hit a 3-pointer with 1:56 left to tie the game at 55. On the next DePaul possession, Garrett split a pair of free throws to give the Blue Demons their first lead since 15:37 in the first half.
It was another big performance from the sophomore, who hit a 3-pointer to send last season’s Marquette game at Allstate Arena to overtime. Not only did he make an impact on the offensive end, Garrett took a charge late from 6-foot-11 forward Luke Fischer that made a difference defensively.
In fact, Garrett said the 13-point swing was because of the team’s defensive commitment. Marquette led 49-36 with 10 minutes remaining in the second half.
“The team kind of rallied behind that, and from there we took off,” Garrett said. “This was a rival game and I’m a big fan of games like that. I see all those DePaul fans in the stands, knowing they want a win. It’s hard not to be amped up.”
A crowd of 8,079 packed Allstate Arena, and the crowd of mostly yellow shirts saw their team blow a late lead.
DePaul held Marquette leading scorer and forward Luke Fischer to just six points. The Blue Demons used different double teams in the post to frustrate Fischer and managed to limit him despite DePaul forward Tommy Hamilton being suspended before the game for a violation of team rules.
Freshman walk-on Joe Hanel came off the bench and provided a very meaningful season-high 20 minutes. The forward had six points and two rebounds while also making up for missing Hamilton.
“Our starting forward Forrest Robinson picked up two quick fouls, and Joe was forced in there and he played great for a guy who has played just a couple minutes this year,” Purnell said. “We needed him. If you’re going to be a defensive team first, he certainly showed that he can do that.”
DePaul forward Jamee Crockett had 13 points and seven rebounds while guard Darrick Wood added seven points. The team as a whole shot 40 percent while Marquette shot 39 percent.
Marquette (8-5, 0-1 Big East) had a four-game win streak snapped. Guards Duane Wilson and Matt Carlino led the Golden Eagles with 11 points each.
“We didn’t make shots today and we’re a team with a very small margin for errors so we have to do the majoirty of the things in the game well in order to win in this conference,” Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “Give DePaul credit, they played well, but we didn’t do our part.”
The Blue Demons will enjoy this win, but they have a quick turnaround with Xavier coming into Allstate Arena on Saturday. The two teams play at 1 p.m.
“Our morale had dropped a little bit so hopefully (this win) will give us a boost a little bit,” Garrett said. “Hopefully, we can carry this on to the next game. It feels good to bounce back.”